I tend not to get very sad when famous people die. I find it hard to get upset about someone I never actually met. That said, Bill Paxton's death really bummed me out. I grew up in the 90s, so I first noticed Paxton as the sniveling used car salesman in True Lies. For some odd reason, my friends and I still quote his character regularly (our favorite lines are, "Would a spy pee himself?" and "I got a little dick. It's pathetic!"). So I appreciated his more popular work in Tombstone and Aliens in later years. I've always found the guy to be hilarious, even when he was being serious. For example, the excellent Frailty was a source of humor among my friends, even though we also appreciated it as a thriller. (I might go ahead and write about that film next since I own it, and it was one of Paxton's only directing credits.) Paxton was always a highlight in whatever he was in.
I revisit Paxton's work often. I watch True Lies and Tombstone at least once a year. In fact, I was watching Tombstone the Saturday he died, though I didn't know he was dead at that point. I wanted to write about Paxton, but I didn't want to focus on one of the roles being mentioned in all the articles about his death.
What that in mind, I decided to revisit one of his more forgotten roles: Coconut Pete from Club Dread. Club Dread was Broken Lizard's followup to Super Troopers. It's essentially an homage/spoof to 80s slasher films. A killer terrorizes the staff of an island resort owned and occupied by musician Coconut Pete (Paxton). Initially, I didn't care for the film, but Paxton's character stood out. Coconut Pete is basically a burnt out Jimmy Buffett. It's hard not to laugh at a long-haired Bill Paxton singing about things like a "seahorse whorehouse."
Club Dread as a whole is actually underrated, but I doubt you'll find anyone (even the members of Broken Lizard) who doesn't think Paxton's scenes are the highlight of the film. My biggest complaint is that he isn't in more of the film.
My favorite moment has to be the campfire scene. First, you get to hear a great song ("Ponytails and Cocktails"). Second, you get some sweet Jimmy Buffett jokes. It turns out that Buffett's "Margaritaville" is a rip-off of Pete's "Pina Coladaburg," which Pete wrote "seven and a half fuckin' years before 'Margaritaville' was even on the map!" Pete storms off, calling Buffett a "son of a son of a bitch" and a "mother motherfucker."
Another highlight is Pete losing his mind explaining how to make his famous paella to the new cooks. The Coconut Pete album covers are pretty great, too. To stop myself from simply listing everything Paxton does in the movie, I'll just say that he makes the movie worth watching or, in my case, revisiting.
Aside from Paxton, I kind of hated Club Dread the first time I saw it. I remember liking Coconut Pete and thinking the life-size Pac-Man maze was cool. The whole slasher spoof aspect was lost on me. I'm not sure if I just didn't get it the first time I watched it or what, but I was not impressed. Watching it now, I appreciate all of the jokes much more. I still consider this a weaker comedy than Super Troopers or Beerfest, but it's a movie I'm glad I own.
Without Paxton, I don't think I could recommend Club Dread. And that isn't just hyperbole now that he's gone. Credit to Broken Lizard for creating the character (who would think of lampooning Jimmy Buffett?), but Paxton runs with it. When given the freedom to go a little nuts, Paxton could make a character that makes an entire film worth watching. That's certainly the case with Club Dread.