This Looks Terrible! Busted (1997)

Well, folks, as I have forthrightly documented here, Corey Feldman month has proven to be a terrible mistake, one so clearly misguided and ineptly executed that it begs to be cut short and dismissed as a bad experiment. So what did I do? I found myself at home on a Wednesday night so of course I decided to watch a terrible-looking movie that would actually make Corey Feldman month even more involved and time and labor intensive instead of less so. 

To be fair, how could I possibly have resisted the sweet siren song of 1997’s Busted? Depending on who you ask, Corey Haim either was fired by Corey Feldman due to tardiness, absences and drug abuse or he stormed off set once he saw that Feldman had him co-starring with an actor who had earlier molested him. If that doesn’t say “fun way to spend 85 minutes” I don’t know what does!

The bar for Haim was set so low by this point that he sails above expectations just by not being transparently a horrifying human train wreck hurtling irrevocably into the abyss. Haim is second-billed and, in keeping with the DVD boxes for the movies I’ve written about for Feld-Month having absolutely nothing to do with the films they’re ostensibly advertising, Haim is rewarded and punished for his three and a half minutes of shockingly lucid screen time with placement front and center on the DVD box, wearing a dumb hat he never actually wears in the film. 

Haim shows up 45 minutes into Busted and has about five minutes of screen time, much of it in the background of scenes, but he looks good and seems alert, even professional, and that is so much more than I would have expected that it’s kind of sad. Because if Haim is second-billed and the star of the DVD box for doing almost no work on the film, his Broseph Stalin in horrible formative psychological trauma and also terrible movies Feldman (or “Feldman & Haim”, as they were catchily dubbed after their different last names) does, if anything, far too much work on Busted. 

Feldman made his directorial debut in addition to starring in Busted in the lead role of David, a cop in the small town of Amity, which seems to have gotten awfully sleepy since that whole incident with the shark in 1975. Crime is seemingly non-existent with the exception of the jails, which the police have turned into a bordello that operates in plain sight. 

Even the locker room is co-ed, which figures prominently in an early fantasy sequence where Feldman’s wacky lawman imagines having a threesome with a pair of busty fellow officers that does not contain any jokes but lasts long enough to let audiences finish masturbating before moving on to the next scene. 

By 1997, the appeal of Busted’s stars was secondary to the promise of naked boobs. The public’s appetite for the once-popular team of Feldman & Haim was fading, but the commercial bang of gratuitous female nudity was something a D-list filmmaker could always count on. 

And Busted is complete garbage. The film desperately wants to be a poverty-row Zucker Brothers movie, a more ribald Naked Gun. The same sad DVD box that wants, that needs us to believe that Haim is both the star of the movie and someone who wears what appears to be a store-bought, low-price “police” Halloween costume in that starring role, ever so subtly invites comparisons to Zucker Brothers films with a tagline boasting, “Faster than a speeding “Airplane.” More Powerful than a Naked Gun.” 

This cover may be inaccurate, but at least it's irresistible

This cover may be inaccurate, but at least it's irresistible

But Busted isn’t just sub-Naked Gun. it’s sub-Police Academy. It’s sub-sub-Police Academy. It’s sub-Night Patrol, the cut-rate cinematic vehicle for Murray Langston, The Unknown Comic, the American hero who would tell bad jokes while wearing a bag on his head on The Gong Show. 

Busted is particularly enamored with groaningly literal visual puns, like a woman walking around with a giant cut out of the word “J” at the end of a leash who is arrested for (wait for it) jay-walking! Later, a counterfeiter is caught “red handed” although I suppose I both should, and should not, put the words “red handed” in quotation marks because while he is figuratively caught red handed, which is to say in the act of committing a crime, he quite literally also red handed, in that his hands are red. If you enjoy jokes of this nature, then you are in for a treat, because Busted has a lot of them and they all play the same way. They announce themselves well in advance, then are clumsily realized, then linger forever like the stench of stale cigar smoke. 

The “actual joke” threshold is one the film is continually attempting without success. For example, when Feldman says, “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” and then holds up a bone, does that qualify as a joke? The movie would desperately like to believe that it does. I’m not at all convinced. 

The bad boys and even naughtier girls of the Amity police force lead contentedly bored lives filled with extended soft-core sex scenes, soft-core nudity and terrible wordplay until a Mayor played by Rance Howard, that’s right, Cint’s pappy himself, decides that he’s had enough funny business and hires a busty, no-nonsense woman to whip the force into order and reduce shenanigans, tomfoolery and sexed-up buffoonery at least forty percent. 

Feldman works so fucking hard here and to such negligible effect that it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. He leans into every terrible bit of wordplay, highlights every groaning, sad visual pun with body language that says, “These are the jokes, people.” Feldman’s one move as a physical comedian is to arch his eyebrow playfully yet quizzically, as if to say, “What just came out of my mouth is so bonkers even I can’t believe it, and I just said it!” 

Who is Corey Feldman when he’s not dressed up like Michael Jackson, dancing like Michael Jackson, singing like Michael Jackson, doing some weird Goth Michael Jackson routine or recounting his hellish childhood and adolescence? Busted pushes Feldman out of his comfort zone of badly imitating Michael Jackson. Instead it finds him imitating, at alternate points Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and Leslie Nielsen. 

Busted deserves credit on some level for even having the ambition to attempt jokes, even if it doesn’t seem to understand what jokes are. For example in an early scene Feldman’s colorful kook is chastised for sleeping in his squad car and he explains that like a ninja, his senses are heightened. This leads to a cutaway shot of a ninja seemingly designed to illustrate to slow-witted audiences what ninjas look and act like, because heaven knows there’s no joke there. Later, a hooker calls a pair of cops nuts, immediately followed by a cut-away shot of cashews in tiny police man uniforms. Because, dear reader, “nuts” is a slang term for crazy but it also refers to food and Busted was having a fun with that fact. 

Ron Jeremy and Todd Bridges turn up here because of course they do. Jeremy was put on earth to make dumb cameos in terrible sex comedies like this, and, to a lesser extent, to have sex onscreen with his enormous penis, just as Bridges was born to have the question, “What you talking about, Willis?” asked of him regularly, and, to a lesser extent, run a string of crack houses in Southern California. Bridges plays a prisoner and apparently really went method with the role.

Is Busted really any worse than National Lampoon’s Last Resort and Dream A Little Dream 2, the previous two Corey Feldman vehicles I have suffered through for Corey Feldman month? I am going to be gracious and say that they’re all terrible in their own unique way, while also being god-awful in very similar ways. Like the previous two films, Busted is ostensibly a wacky sex comedy but it’s really just a nudity, boobs, cleavage and sex-scene delivery system. Even on that level it fails. Oh sure, the movie is filled with naked boobs but watching it, I found myself thinking things like, “Do I really need to see those two busty police-women make out? I don’t think so. That’s just gratuitous and adds nothing to the plot or to characterization.” These are not thoughts a heterosexual man should be having during a wacky sex comedy.

Very sad fact: this is actually a still photograph from Corey Haim's funeral. Feldman did not attend. These two did. 

Very sad fact: this is actually a still photograph from Corey Haim's funeral. Feldman did not attend. These two did. 

Busted offers the sour, silent sadness of the failed joke, or rather 137 failed jokes, each seemingly bigger and more awkward than the one that preceded it, rather than the sour sadness of the tragic lives of the classic team of Feldman & Haim. So I guess on some level I should just be grateful that the movie made me sad because it was so desperately, hopelessly, completely unfunny and not because its stars so poignantly embody what makes the world of child stardom so heartbreaking, particularly everything that follows it, like addiction, depression, confusion, early, tragic deaths and, most tragically, movies like Busted. 

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