If there’s the equivalent of Shakespeare to be found in 20th-century pop culture, perhaps it’s Good Burger. And, lookee here, if there’s a line in Good Burger comparable to “To be or not to be, that is the question,” or “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” it’s got to be “Welcome to Good Burger. Home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?”
Good Burger was shot in the spring of 1997 and released in July, a ridiculously fast three months after wrapping production. The film received terrible reviews and underperformed at the box office, though underperformed is a relative term, as it earned $25 million worldwide against an $8 million budget. But it’s so fun, or at least I thought it was while enjoying the film at home with my kids on old-fashioned VHS when they were old enough to see it. A recent rewatch confirmed that it’s plenty entertaining, colorful, loaded with amusing catchphrases and slapstick action, and boasts a winsome soundtrack. And, as a relic of the past – one that’s streaming now on Netflix, but coming off the grill on March 27 – there’s just so much to unpack, it’s crazy.Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson reprised their roles as Ed and Dexter, two high schoolers who work at Good Burger, a local burger joint endangered by the imminent opening of Mondo Burger, a chain that serves up massive burgers and tends to devour its competition. All sorts of silliness unfold after Ed creates a secret sauce that just might help Good Burger stay afloat. The villain is Mondo Burger’s owner, Kurt (Jan Schweiterman), who’ll do anything to get his hands on Ed’s sauce recipe. Mitchell and Thompson yuck it up as the semi-frenemies turned buddies, and their chemistry is perfect. Thompson these days is a Saturday Night Live all-star and has been with the sketch comedy show longer than anyone in its history. He also currently stars on his own sitcom, Kenan. Mitchell has acted pretty much nonstop in movies and on TV. Among his highlights, he earned two Daytime Emmy nominations for his voice work on the animated kids show, Clifford the Big Red Dog, co-starred in the cult-favorite superhero film, Mystery Men, appeared in the Kanye West music video for the song “All Falls Down,” and was the runner-up in season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, which aired in 2019. Beyond Mitchell and Thompson, the cast of Good Burger is eclectic. The late, great Abe Vigoda appears as an ancient, barely functioning co-worker. Sinbad (“You have messed up my afro.”) plays one of Dexter’s teachers, while a very young Linda Cardellini co-stars as a girl with a crush on Ed. Then there’s music icon George Clinton as a dancing mental patient; future Angel and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star J. August Richards plus Carmen Electra as a couple of Kurt’s goons; and Moesha actress Shar Jackson as Dexter’s love interest. Shaquille O’Neal plays himself. This is 90s prime, people. As a footnote, Jan Schweiterman apparently quit acting in 2000.One of the film’s co-writers is Dan Schneider, who started as an actor and was best known for Head of the Class before creating such Nickelodeon programming as All That, Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, Zoey 101, iCarly, and Henry Danger. He also produced the popular family comedy Big Fat Liar. The film’s director is Brian Robbins, who co-starred with Schneider on Head of the Class, and later wrote, produced and/or directed Kenan & Kel, Varsity Blues, Hardball, Coach Carter, The Shaggy Dog, Wild Hogs, Blue Mountain State, and the Eddie Murphy comedies Norbit, Meet Dave, and A Thousand Words. He eventually moved into the executive suite and by 2018 was president of Nickelodeon. And in the fall of 2021, he became president and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. Anyway, Good Burger is a, pardon the pun, rare movie. It’s overlooked yet beloved. It’s very much of its time but will amuse today’s kids. And it was a stepping stone for several major actors and industry players responsible for what children are watching today. For anyone who loved the movie and needs an extra dose of nostalgia beyond watching Good Burger again, Mitchell and Thompson reunited in 2015, joining Jimmy Fallon for a Good Burger sketch on The Tonight Show.
Good Burger is streaming on Netflix until March 27.
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