Movie Review: “Burning Bodhi”


Truth be told, every generation’s “take stock of itself” dramedy has to come of as insipid to the generations that came before and after it.

It’s easy to see the arcane quaintness of “The Big Chill,” or “Return of the Secaucus Seven” or “Beautiful Girls” or, oh, “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” to tick off a few.

So there’ll be no dismissing, out-of-hand, “those kids” in “10 Years” or “About Alex” or yet another  “summoned home for a funeral” reunion picture for Generation Y that “Burning Bodhi” turns out to be.

An acting showcase for “Big Bang Theory” starlet Kaley Cuoco and Warner Brothers honcho daughter Cody Horn (“Magic Mike”), it’s got some good scenes, some graceful writing and decent performances.

Surprises? Not really. Start with the fact that assorted friends are summoned back to their hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they give away money to get movies made there, to the who-hooked-up-with-whom and who-will-hook-up group dynamic, this is “The Big Chill” for Generation Chill.

Bodhi, a product of this hippy redoubt in the desert, has died. Suddenly. And word spreads the way word spreads these days — by text message and otherwise.

“Finding out on Facebook? What’s WITH that?”

He was young, and “This is supposed to happen to OLD people,” Katy (Cuoco) gripes. “Makes me feel like I’m 40 or something.”

She may not have the years, but the girl’s got the mileage. Katy has a child the state makes her grandmother take care of. She has court-ordered community service (picking up trash). She used to date Dylan (Landon Liboiron), who has reluctantly returned from Chicago. And she has other problems.

“She’s a drug bunny, Dylan.”

Just in case her tattered clothes, piercings and garish, misapplied makeup didn’t give her away.

Ember (Horn) is the libidinous blonde who summons the others. She’s planning “a FUN-eral,” not a funeral. It’ll be like a wake, only for young people who prefer bong hits and joints to alcohol.

Dylan, an aspiring comic book artist, leaves his girlfriend (Meghann Fahy) behind in Chicago. But not for long. You know she’ll follow him anywhere.

Miguel (Eli Vargas), Dylan’s roommate, makes his own way west, picking up a vivacious and pregnant teen (Sasha Pieterse) in his aged VW camper van.

One in New Mexico, the 20somethings try to sort out their status, past and present. Dylan is forced to confront the mother (Virginia Madsen) who abandoned him and his professor/hippy farmer dad (Andy Buckley). Characters “come out” and confess (or don’t confess) their feelings for one another. And Bodhi.

And then they eulogize the guy.

Writer-director Matthew McDuffie concocted some nice scenes — an attempt at making up staged by text message, young people awkwardly snarking on the others attending the “viewing” because they don’t know any better and they have no coping skills.

And New Mexico provides the odd lovely sunset or seedy, broken-down RV crackhouse. McDuffie filmed a detailed version of cremation, sort of an explainer for generations young and old. And he gives everybody just enough to play to lure a decent cast in, and gives one and all the occasional funny, generation-specific one-liner.

“What kind of Miley Cyrus bong hit did you take, Bra?”

So even though it’s not particularly affecting and entirely too obvious in how it dresses the young women in the cast (Daisy Dukes, bra-less tank tops), “Burning Bodhi” isn’t a total write-off.

It’s just callow, the way we all are/were in our 20s.Which is why the best generational “take stock” reunion movies wait until everybody hits 30, or close to it, before even trying to make sense of it all. If you’re still smearing gold-with-glitter eye shadow on with a trowel, the wisdom and perspective of age are still a few years off.


MPAA Rating: R for drug use, language and some sexual references

Cast: Cody Horn, Landon Liboiron, Kaley Cuoco, Eli Vargas, Virginia Madsen, Sasha Pieterse, Meghann Fahy
Credits: Written and directed by Matthew McDuffie. A Monterey Media release.

Running time:1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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