There's a short sketch in an episode of the comedy show Key & Peele that I think explains why Spring Breakers colossally failed in its mission. A Mos Def-like socially conscious rapper stoically rhymes on the tough streets pointing out the social injustices and ugliness in our society through a black woman struggling in the ghetto.
A Lil Wayne-like clownish and sexist rapper interrupts him and grabs the woman's breasts as she gleefully shakes them at the camera, yelling "Titties in my mouth, titties in my mouth, I got tig ole bitties from a buncha different cities!"
Of course the joke is that these two approaches never mix, and the socially conscious rapper decides to leave. However, if it was up to Harmony Korine, he'd find a way to bring those two together in a trippy cool video because shucks, he's just so darn creative and inventive and awesome and cool like that.
Don't you see that the man's an artist? He pushes the general public's cultural boundaries to their very limits and then some, all the while wearing a giant rubbery pink dildo on her face and defecating into a Taco Bell doggie bag while filming the whole thing on retrograde VHS because, well, why the hell not?
The trailers for Spring Breakers are already diving audiences before they even see the film. There are horny men who can't wait to salivate over shots of barely legal starlets' ample derrières bouncing up and down in slo-mo. There are people who love slick, artsy action films expecting a sexy and daring heist movie of sorts.
Then there are those who had the misfortune of laying eyes on Harmony Korine's work and know for a fact that more than likely nothing remotely coherent, enjoyable or thought provoking can come out of a weirdo who loves shooting feature films on VHS about degenerates in bad Halloween masks humping trash cans (This is not an exaggeration).
That being said, the decent reviews for Spring Breakers, as opposed to the rightfully abysmal ones for Trash Humpers, raised my hopes up just a little. After watching the Girls Gone Wild on Speed opening, where a bunch of typical spring breakers flash their goods in slow motion set to soul-crushing dub step music, I thought maybe this time Korine has something to say about anything. The opening sequence is so over the top that it manages to disgust us via its sheer exuberance. Was Korine actually trying to show us how shallow our youth culture is by turning everything up to 11?
But then the rest of the film happened. We meet four college girls so stupid and shallow, they make the kids from Kids (Written by Korine) look like charitable MIT students. All they want is some penis in their mouths (I'm not kidding) and to party until they puke or die, whichever comes first.
There is a monologue by a religious girl played by Selena Gomez (Her name is Faith. GET IT!? FAITH! BECAUSE SHE'S THE RELIGIOUS ONE!) about how they all need new experiences in life, but it stinks of trying desperately to add depth to these caricatures as opposed to finding real motivation within them.
Yes, I know they also talk about how they're going to treat spring break as if it's a movie or a video game and go about things in the most irresponsible and carefree way possible. I guess this is another heavy-handed way for Korine to comment on today's youth. After the girls rob a restaurant at gunpoint to pay for their vacation, it's easy to mumble to oneself "Look at the sorry state of our kids". However, the same could be said about the characters in Kids, and that film is almost 20 years old.
Where Kids succeeded was in its grim direction and cinematography. As envelope pushing as it was in its depiction of sex and rape between minors, it never looked appealing or attractive. In the case of Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine's F-you style fueled by his gigantic ego betrays him in the worst way possible. He winks and tries to convince us that his message is to condemn the rampant materialism of millennials as the wannabe gangster rapper Alien keeps repeating "Look at all my s—t!" while he dances over a bed made out of money and guns (literally).
However, Korine's MTV-style slick and bright videography and his editing that's way too enamored with slow-motion close-ups of jail bait butts and breasts create the kind of narrative schizophrenia seldom seen even in pretentious art-house films. Any social and artistic depth the film tries to create is shattered by endless pornographic shots of naked girls as Korine expects to rake in the cash from the horny male audience who should drool into their seats. One cancels the other one out and we are left with a giant zero, a complete and utter waste of time and energy for everyone involved, the equivalent of watching a blank screen for an hour and a half while repeatedly hitting ourselves on the head with pots and pans for absolutely no reason.
Speaking of James Franco, Dave Chapelle's portrayal of Lil John was more subtle and understated than his performance as Alien. I guess after people complained about how lifeless he looks in mainstream films, he decided to try out the other end of the believability spectrum. The film is obviously mostly improvised and at least fifty percent of Franco's dialogue consists of "Look at my s—t!" and "Spring breeeeaaaak!" I wish I was joking.
So where does that leave you, the audience? If you're really clamoring to see college girls showing off their goods and having sex in public, I don't know if you know this, but there are tons of web sites on the interwebs that focus entirely on showing you exactly what you're looking for. Why waste your time and money on this? And if you're looking for a creative and artistic examination of the shallowness of today's youth told in an entertaining and clever way? Move along folks, there's nothing to see here.