Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, may I take your order.” It’s more mantra than mere request, so get used to hearing the kids on the block repeating these words endlessly as the appealing “Good Burger” captures screens and imaginations this summer. A ruthlessly clever yarn of small fries vs. big biz, this winning comedy serves up a hearty helping of fun and wholesome values that will ring up appetizing sales at the box office.
The title emporium is a modest fast-food joint peopled by teen misfits that will imminently confront the might of the aptly named Mondo Burger looming up across the street. The fascist empire of hamburger means to make chopped meat of the good folk who’ve been flipping and frying to a regular crowd for decades. Customers are fickle, and flash and size quickly erode the underdog’s client base.
What’s particularly appealing about this classic confrontation are its default heroes. Ed (Kel Mitchell) is the ultimate naif, literal to a fault and possessing an innocence that’s disarming. Dexter (Kenan Thompson) is his wheeler-dealer foil, forced into fast-food servitude to pay off an automobile accident with his school teacher, the 1970s retro-dude Mr. Wheat (Sinbad).
The evil Mondo chain, repped by Kurt Bozwell (Jan Schweiterman), is dismissive of the competition. Selling patties twice the size of Good Burger for the same price, they presume to own the competitive skillet in a matter of weeks. The way they plump up the beef is not only an extreme example of venal corporate power but, appropriately, the (sesame) seed of their undoing.
Meanwhile, a divine accident re-balances the scales. On lunch break, Dexter gets a taste of Ed’s very outstanding homemade special sauce. The staff concurs after sampling it and the sauce is immediately added to the menu. Overnight, record crowds are drawn to the eatery, much to the chagrin of the blockbuster bunmeisters.
Evolved from a recurring sketch on Nickelodeon’s “All That,” the picture’s ace card is the character of Ed, ingeniously played by Mitchell. Ed is in the American dramatic tradition of the “Jonathan” tales — yarns in which a country rube ventures to the big city and overcomes those who wish to exploit him. Honesty and integrity prevail against greed and corruption for him as well as such bygone prototypes as L’il Abner and Mr. Smith.
The irony of this type is that he’s vulnerable to both friend and foe. So, Ed is at the receiving end of such villainous ploys as money, sexual seduction and physical threats. Considerably more poignant is the fact that Dexter is also quick to prey on his friend’s simple ways.
He draws up a contract in which he receives the lion’s share of profits from the sauce. While it sounds cornier than a corn dog, the realization that his value system is askew gives the film a richer flavor and a more textured moral basis.
Mitchell and Thompson have the sort of complementary qualities that make for great comedy team work. And the writers and actors are hip enough to understand how to turn the tables on the obvious without compromising the true nature of Ed and Dex.
Director Brian Robbins has an efficient, unfussy manner that emphasizes character and environment. Rather than slick camerawork, he focuses on Steven Jordan’s offbeat and slightly garish production design to great effect.
“Good Burger” stacks up well in its minor genre. The meat of the piece is definitely FDA cinematically approved, and perfect if you like this brand of entertainment with the works.