Insufferable Boy Kills World Dishonors H. Jon Benjamin’s Beautiful Voice

Movies Reviews Bill Skarsgard
Insufferable Boy Kills World Dishonors H. Jon Benjamin’s Beautiful Voice

Audiences who had seen Moritz Mohr’s feature debut Boy Kills World last year, during the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, immediately clocked that something was different upon watching its trailer during the lead-up to its release. What had initially been lead actor Bill Skårsgard’s voice doing narration, while portraying a character who is both deaf and mute, had been replaced by the dulcet, droll tones of Archer and Bob’s Burgers voice actor H. Jon Benjamin. It feels safe to assume it was to make the film “funnier.” Like, isn’t it funny that hot, young Swedish actor Bill Skårsgard’s inner voice is the guy who plays a can of mixed vegetables in Wet Hot American Summer?

Maybe it was suitably funny just for a two-minute trailer, but whoever made this genius artistic choice should be buried alive like the child version of Skårsgard’s character at the start of the film. (The younger character being played by both Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, who funnily enough also played the sons of Alexander Skårsgard’s character on Big Little Lies). The joke gets old approximately five minutes in, and there are still 106 more minutes left to go. That runtime didn’t stop a group of three people from leaving my screening after only 30 minutes of enduring this. I looked over at them as they left their seats with the same kind of longing desperation a prisoner might weather upon seeing his friend get early release.

But I wasn’t so fortunate to have that choice. I had to sit through the nearly two-hour story of Boy (Skårsgard), a young man sculpted for violence who seeks revenge for the ritual murders of his sister and mother when he was a child. Boy and his family lived under the corrupt, totalitarian dictatorship of the Van Der Koys, headed by matriarch Hilda (Famke Janssen) and her family: Melanie (Michelle Dockery), Glen (Sharlto Copley) and Gideon (Brett Gelman—once again, to absolutely no one’s surprise, playing a grating tyrant).

Boy escaped death by the Culling, the barbaric system by which the Van Der Koys keep their society clean and free of criminals and wrongdoers—and which had claimed his innocent mother and sister. But the attack robs him of his voice and his hearing, and he’s taken in by a forest-dwelling shaman (Yayan Ruhian; are we still doing the Karate Kid, wise Asian-man-trains-white-boy thing?) who trains Boy for the express purpose of someday seeking his retribution. Well, someday has finally arrived. A trip to town where Glen and Gideon stop by to pick “volunteers” for the Culling goes horribly awry, and Boy is compelled into action. He sneaks into the Van Der Koy stronghold and embarks upon his plan of revenge, which involves as much comical gore and carnage inflicted on as many Van Der Koy henchmen as possible.

On his path to Hilda, Boy meets members of a resistance who also want to see the Van Der Koys put into the ground: motor-mouthed Basho (Andrew Koji) and Benny (Isaiah Mustafa), the latter of whom Boy, for some reason, cannot lip read. Instead, Benny’s dialogue verbalizes as a series of nonsensical sentences meant to be funny by virtue of smashing disparate, funny-sounding words together. The three hatch a joint plan to crash the Van Der Koy dinner and execute the matriarch—but it’s a plan that is rendered incomplete to Boy, who cannot speak and who cannot properly lip read one crucial half of the plan-making. Ultimately, Boy is kidnapped by Gideon after the plan seemingly goes south. Boy believes himself triumphant, but has merely slit the throat of an actress set up as a decoy meant to ensnare would-be assassins like Boy. Now he’s in the group of innocent people set to be Culled on live television.

All of this is ushered along by Boy’s internal monologue, whose nasally baritone was once the narrator of his and his sister’s favorite arcade game. But not only does Boy have an annoying internal monologue, he also begins manifesting his dead little sister as an imaginary friend; a feisty subconscious creation who is eager to ass-kick, draw blood, and curse alongside her brother. Yawn, wince, recoil, etc.

I shudder to use the term “Reddit” to describe things. It’s a stupid, incredibly reductive signifier often used to describe what someone personally finds annoying or cringe (like my beloved home city of Philadelphia). But there is a certain je ne sais quoi to Boy Kills World of “epic bacon” proportions, not unlike the Deadpool films to which it draws unfavorable comparisons. Like the smug yet embarrassingly self-effacing personality of Ryan Reynolds’ Mr. Pool, which is part and parcel with the irritating DNA of the entire film, so too is Boy Kills World infused with an insufferable “look how cool this is” quality that reduces everything to the realm of the painfully try-hard and dorky. Watching men get their skin cheese-grated off their bodies, and their mouths ripped apart, and their heads squashed with ample gore should not be “dorky,” and yet Boy Kills World manages such a sacrilege by having H. Jon Benjamin conclude grisly murders with things like “Player one wins. Game Over” and “Fatality,” or ruminate that the bad guys should go to therapy. Come on!!!

Boy Kills World would be at least modestly less annoying without Benjamin’s voice. That’s not a knock against Benjamin, but on the dialogue he’s made to read (Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers penned the screenplay). Because it’s not funny at all (the dialogue is so very bad) and extremely annoying, I would rather just listen to Skårsgard speak. At least then I wouldn’t be preoccupied with the feeling like Mohr and co. were sitting somewhere with their hands folded together feeling very pleased with themselves over this ingenious switcheroo.

And while Benjamin’s narration does wane towards the end as more speaking characters fill out the cast, even the plentiful action and fight scenes aren’t enough to make Boy Kills World simply fun or even worth watching. Overlong and overstimulating, the entire film is like a giant, immersive eyesore. There is hardly a still moment on the screen, the camera is constantly burdened with movement and “stuff” in the frame as if to dull all your senses by pure sensory overload. The fights—which do feature some entertaining violence—go on and on well past their natural endpoint, robbing them of being even a mild respite from an otherwise two-hour-long headache. But perhaps I’m just not the target audience for this kind of film. I clearly had an appreciation for Deadpool at one point, which remains immensely popular as the next installment rears its head, so, maybe there is something I’m missing here by not still being an undergrad or, more appropriately, a teenager. But Boy Kills World feels particularly like the product of our attention-deficit younger generations needing constant stimulus to keep their eyes on the screen. Despite how low our culture has fallen at the whims of technology, I still want to believe that even Boys Kills World is too grossly artless for the masses.

Director: Moritz Mohr
Writer: Tyler Burton Smith, Arend Remmers
Starring: Bill Skårsgard, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Famke Janssen, Sharlto Copley, Brett Gelman, Isaiah Mustafa, Andrew Koji, H. Jon Benjamin
Release Date: April 26, 2024

Brianna Zigler is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts. Her work has appeared at Little White Lies, Film School Rejects, Thrillist, Bright Wall/Dark Room and more, and she writes a bi-monthly newsletter called That’s Weird. You can follow her on Twitter, where she likes to engage in stimulating discussions on films like Movie 43, Clifford, and Watchmen.

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