The 90s On Netflix: Good Burger (1997)
Kenan and Kel8
Mark Harrison | On 20, Dec 2019
Director: Brian Robbins
Cast: Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Abe Vigoda, Linda Cardellini, Sinbad
Watch Good Burger online in the UK: Netflix UK
Do you remember the 1990s? Mark does. On Fridays, he flashes back to the golden decade of our childhood. From family-friendly films to blockbusters we shouldn’t have been watching, get ready for a monthly dose of nostalgia, as we put down our VHS tapes and find out whether the 90s on Netflix are still Live & Kicking.
“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?” That line is repeated umpteen times throughout this super-sized Kenan and Kel vehicle and we don’t doubt it was quoted thousands of times more in playgrounds around the world. Daft as it may seem, Good Burger was a big deal for kids of a certain age.
For the uninitiated, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell first collaborated on the Nickelodeon sketch show All That before spinning off into their own eponymous sitcom, which ran from 1996 to 2000. UK audiences will be most familiar with Kenan and Kel from either Nickelodeon or their terrestrial home on CBBC.
Produced between the first and second seasons of that show, Good Burger takes its lead from an All That sketch which featured Mitchell as Ed, a burger joint cashier who is patently unsuitable to train new employees because they all basically wind up acting like him. In this film version, it’s hapless high-school student Dexter (Thompson) who winds up working there all summer to pay off damages caused by driving without a licence.
The plot (such as it is) follows Dexter and Ed’s attempts to fend off the mega-eatery Mondo Burger, which has just opened across the street from their friendly neighbourhood fast-food joint, but the structure isn’t really the point. You know what you’re in for with the brilliantly daft comic cacophony that plays through the opening credits, which starts with a chorus of singing burgers with googly eyes and then progresses through fully-clothed showering and a bit where some basketball players accidentally swap their ball with a baby, and then dunk the baby.
Kenan and Kel’s chemistry is transplanted wholesale to the big screen, with Kel going through most of the aforementioned slapstick motions while Kenan plays the straight man who can’t keep himself or his mate out of trouble. Frankly, Good Burger is brilliant whenever it’s just them talking nonsense or engaging in short skits. As on TV, their real-life friendship shines through and makes everything they do funnier.
Regrettably, the film around them only cramps their style. For comparison, think about how Wayne’s World (another Paramount feature based on a popular TV sketch) made the corporate appropriation of the format a part of the meta-humour and then look at how almost everyone around Kenan and Kel is mugging and gurning for all they’re worth, which suggests that not everyone involved “gets” the appeal.
As in the recurring sketch that inspired it, there’s a cavalcade of celebrity cameos to keep things manic, with the prominence of Carmen Electra and Shaquille O’Neal planting this firmly in the 1990s. Further, non-mugging supporting turns come from a young Linda Cardellini and an old Abe Vigoda, whose career peaks with the line: “I think I broke my ass.”
Later highlights include a dance sequence in a mental hospital and a series of fairly berserk driving stunts. Best of all, it ends with a matter-of-fact indictment of corporate abuses of the judicial system and the need for activism from ordinary citizens whenever the opportunity arises, all through the medium of giant, exploding burgers. At its best, it’s truly a film that can have it all.
Silly though their sole cinematic vehicle may be, Good Burger proves that Kenan and Kel could have been the 90s’ answer to Laurel and Hardy. Although a possible sequel is still said to be in development as of this year (outside of 1998’s literary follow-up, Good Burger 2 Go), it’s very much a film of its moment.
There’s no structure, but their personality brings method to their madness. Following their lead, it’s only right that this review, like the film, starts and ends with a “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”
Good Burger is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.