Who doesn’t love a raunchy comedy starring a couple has-been actors from 30 years ago? Everyone does of course! That’s what authors David C. Hayes and Jon Arking were banking on when they wrote the novella Hot Mess.
Hot Mess follows the story of 80’s child actors Lucas and Eddie who enjoyed an immense but short-lived stardom as teens and are now a couple of foul mouthed, washed-up actors who haven’t worked in years and are short on cash. In a foolish attempt at making themselves relevant again, the two are killed and sent back to Earth on a mission from the Almighty for one last chance at redemption.
Of course, characters such as these are not meant to do anything without making a mess of things first (as the title hints at). They must work alongside some actually decent people, of which there are few in this story, in order to accomplish their quest.
The story of Lucas and Eddie was full of bad jokes and dirty language that appealed to the teenager in me. It was predictable and a bit formulaic, but much of what we enjoy nowadays is. Getting to talk to the author before reading the book and hear him describe his vision of this being a movie script written specifically for two (I bet you can guess who) real life 80’s teen stars who share the same name, added a personal joke that I found myself chuckling over as I read and envisioned those two real-life actors portraying Lucas and Eddie.
The characters themselves were written as incredibly brash and offensive. While this made sense for both their personas and the storyline, there were a few times I cringed at the anti-female and homophobic comments they made. However, they appeared to be in there as a representation of the character’s personalities and not a commentary of the authors’ feelings. I have enjoyed many raunchy movies and books over the years and this just gets added to that list.
The villain was standard bad guy fare, and with a name like “Badway” he couldn’t be anything but. The final face-between good (and I use that term loosely) and evil was fun, if a bit abrupt. I found myself wanting a bit more at the end, which is generally a good commentary on the book.
One of the more entertaining set pieces in the book, was their trip to the afterlife. Somewhat reminiscent of “Beetlejuice’s” waiting room, Lucas and Eddie get to interact with a variety of odd characters as the wait for their meeting with the man himself. God was also an interesting part of this chapter. Very different from the man described to me on Sundays as a kid, the author portrayed him in a lighthearted and somewhat joking manner that fit the feel of the book.
The writing itself favored heavily on dialogue, which makes since as it was originally envisioned as a screenplay. This kept the pace of the book quick and allowed for plenty of back and forth between the characters. It was fun to imagine the banter going on between these two friends who seem to have been stuck together for better or worse.
Overall, I would recommend this book as a good “sit by the pool with a beer” read. It’s not going to make you any smarter, but it will make you laugh and wonder what some of your favorite 80’s teen idols are up to all these years later.