My Boyfriend’s Back
Directed by Bob Balaban
Written by Dean Lorey
Actor-turned-director, Bob Balaban, directed this black comedy about a young teenage boy who comes back from the dead in hopes of taking his dream girl to the Prom. Balaban seemed like the right choice since his previous film, and directorial debut, the off-beat 1989 film Parents, also dealt with teen angst and cannibalism. Unfortunately, Balaban was put in an awkward situation of trying to direct a horror comedy to please the studio execs at Disney. The result is a strange marriage of fantasy, comedy, and parody, and a wicked satire on teenage brutality, puberty, and small town bigotry.
Andrew Lowery stars as Johnny, a high school outsider who tries his best to impress Missy McCloud, the girl he’s been in love with, all his life. Desperate to get her attention, and quickly running out of hope, Johnny conceptualizes a scheme involving a quick stop robbery. However, things go sour, and Johnny catches a bullet to the chest while trying to protect Missy from harm’s way. Luckily for Johnny, he’s given a second chance and rises from the grave as a flesh-eating zombie. But this isn’t your ordinary zombie flick. The film’s principal joke is that every so often, someone in the town, rises from the grave, and so it isn’t a big surprise for the local townspeople who go on with their daily rituals.
Johnny’s sudden decomposition is just the start of his problems. He also has to deal with his high school bullies Chuck (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Missy’s now ex-boyfriend Buck (Matthew Fox). Even worse, no one in the town is happy about a zombie moving in and a prejudice begins to rise amongst the townspeople. Johnny isn’t happy to learn that in order to prevent his body from decomposing, he must feed on human flesh – and if that wasn’t enough, he is later taken captive by the town’s deranged doctor (Austin Pendleton), who believes his undead flesh might be the key to a new eternal youth vaccine.
This morbid black comedy is rather silly, but there is a sort of charm about the nonchalant way, everyone treats Johnny’s return. His parents make an effort to kidnap local children and bring them home for Johnny to eat, and Missy doesn’t seem to mind making out with Johnny, despite his body parts falling off. There’s plenty of amusing moments, a few odd sex fantasies and a unique comic-book quality in which many of the scenes begin as animated panels before transitioning into live-action sequences. It also features a surprisingly good cast, delivering deadpan performances. Look carefully, and you’ll see the first appearance by Matthew McConaughey.
My Boyfriend’s Back is a hilariously tongue-in-cheek send-up of both zombie movies and romantic teen-comedies, with a touch of social satire. Fans of the genre, or just anyone looking for a demented Disney comedy, should find something to like.
It is said that Disney/Touchstone changed the original title of Johnny Zombie because they felt it wouldn’t reach a wide enough audience. So instead, they named it My Boyfriend’s Back, which makes little sense since it isn’t the boyfriend who comes back from the dead, but rather a creepy stalker.
Dr. Bronson: Okay, well, you’re dead. Which is unusual, because we don’t normally see this much activity in a dead person.
Johnny: I heard someone my age is supposed to be comfortable with the way their body changes, but given the circumstances, this was too much.
Big Chuck: GOOD girls don’t hang around with dead boys.
Johnny: Just because I crawled out of a grave doesn’t make me a frickin’ zombie.
Sheriff McCloud: Honey, let the zombie go and I’ll buy you a pretty dress.