The party’s over long before it gets started in “Party Monster,” starring Macaulay Culkin as club-kid-turned-killer Michael Alig. Culkin would seem an apt choice to play the role — like Alig, the New York City party scene Pied Piper, he had a famously troubled youth.
The worst thing the child star of the “Home Alone” movies ever did, though, was get married at 17 — and divorced two years later. Alig, meanwhile, is serving time for the 1996 killing of drug dealer Angel Melendez, which “Party Monster” plays for morbid laughs.
But any sympathy Culkin could have injected into his self-destructive character is squashed by the clunky script from co-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
There’s another movie out there that explores these themes, but with powerful insight and unflinching realism: “Thirteen,” about two junior high school girls who drag each other down a path of sex, drugs and mayhem.
Not so for “Party Monster,” based on the book “Disco Bloodbath” by Alig’s club-hopping buddy James St. James.
This is the first feature from Bailey and Barbato, best known for their documentaries (including one from 1998 called “Party Monster,” about the same subject). But the structured campiness that made their Tammy Faye Bakker documentary, 2000’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” such fun feels awkward and overbearing here.
Alig and St. James (Seth Green), kindred spirits who transformed themselves from Midwestern misfits to drug-snorting divas, don’t interact as human beings so much as speak at each other as if they were reciting lines in a high school play.
The stilted, affected way they converse — like Terrance and Phillip on “South Park,” only without the finger-pulling — renders them two-dimensional and quickly distances us from them. And that’s a problem, since one or both are in nearly every frame of the film.
“Party Monster” follows the duo from their first meeting in the early ’90s, when St. James was already a fixture in the ultra-glam, drug-infested New York City nightclub scene and Alig was an anxious neophyte with his nose pressed against the glass.
First, St. James teaches Alig how to dress: Feather boas, short shorts and platform shoes eventually give way to full-on Kabuki makeup and Vegas-showgirl headdresses.
Then he teaches Alig about drugs: A couple lines of coke here and there eventually give way to heroin, Special K and full-on crack addiction, with help from Angel (Wilson Cruz).
Alig is a quick study, and in no time he becomes the king of the underground party circuit, thanks to club owner Peter Gatien (Dylan McDermott), who’s depicted as a doting, fatherly figure who overlooks the substances his patrons are buying, selling and consuming.
Bailey and Barbato seem more concerned with the costumes (which are eye-poppingly extravagant) and the blaring soundtrack of tinny dance songs (like “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q, which hasn’t aged well) than with providing an understanding of what draws these people to this lifestyle.
“I wanted to create my own world, a world full of color,” Alig says at one point. That seems to be the filmmakers’ main goal, too — though they do give Green room to show some character evolution.
Actual club kids from the period show up to provide an aura of authenticity, but they only make Bailey and Barbato’s documentary from five years ago seem more enticing.
The 13-year-olds in “Thirteen” are just as codependent and screwed up as the party monsters of “Party Monster,” but you walk out of “Thirteen” caring about them because they’re so richly drawn. Here, you’ll just walk out with a headache.