Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't flatter yourself; it wasn't that great--The Hangover

A week ago I finally got around to seeing The Hangover, eagerly awaiting which I thought would be a barrel of fun. It was more like a teacup.

I can't believe this is the comedy that America is holding to its collective bosom. When I posted as much on Facebook--sparking the interest of the entire Internet community--a friend of mine thought I was nuts for having such a thought.

Wanna know why? Well, there are seven reasons. (No, we're not going to talk about the borderline offensive gay jokes. That's been covered and smothered.)
  1. The script relies too much on the wacky. Hey, there's Mike Tyson singing Phil Collins! Ed Helms lost a tooth! Wow, Heather Graham is breast feeding. That's all terrific, but where's the funny dialogue? Where are the home run lines, you know, the dialogue I'm going to recall with friends years later? Anybody can put a string of wacky scenarios together, but being funny is a whole other matter entirely, and The Hangover is too busy trying to push the envelope that it forgets too frequently to tell jokes.


  2. Director Todd Phillips is not Harold Ramis. All of Phillips movies suffer from the same problem: There are two or three funny moments, and then the rest of the time there's nothing. My brother, the comedy writer, brough this to my attention years ago: It's almost like Phillips has three or four funny scenes in mind, and then builds a movie around it. Consequently, his movies usually sag in the middle and feature desperate attempts to get it back to life (e.g. Will Ferrell's breakdown in Old School; the awful Helms/Graham love story in The Hangover). The parts are always better than the whole, just like Michael Mann, another director who has somehow seduced the American public.


  3. The ending stinks. This a common thread in all of Phillips' movies, and The Hangover is no exception. Fellas, let me ask you something: Have you ever been to a bachelor party that ended a day before the wedding? Of course, you haven't. Well, The Hangover does that because there needs to be a mad dash to get the groom to the bride. The last time that story device was fresh was in a Three Stooges short back in the late 1930s; Shemp wound up marrying a chimp. It was spectacular.


  4. The fancy car. Roger Ebert has said that whenever he sees a fruit cart in a city street, he knows that it's going to be toppled over. I think it's time to extend that definition to a fancy/classic car (e.g. Tommy Boy, Risky Business, Ferris Beuller's Day Off). The Hangover goes to that hoary old device, and what's worse--there's no bloody payoff. The car gets banged up. Thanks, fellas. This also extends to...


  5. The obligatory love interest. I have to give credit to everyone involved to showing zero creativity and pizzazz in setting up Helms (who I liked, actually) and Graham (still looking great). The motivation behind their union was, according to my notes, they had interlocking parts. Simply inspiring.


  6. Racheal Harris' character. I know we need to have a reason for Helms to stray, but it's got to be more imaginative than Harris' character being a combination of Andrea Dworkin and every bad first date I experienced. She could have been too cutesy or too young or too old. If you need an obligatory excuse for Helms to ditch her, don't make her that she's so flagrantly unpleasant, especially if she's one of the few female characters (the other is Graham, a stripper/escort. Hooray!) in the movie. That's an excellent way to repel the women in the crowd.


  7. Jeffrey Tambor gets nothing to do. Really? That's a great way to gain respect from the comedy nerds, give the head of the Bluth family fewer lines than Heather "Rollergirl" Graham. Splendid move.

I did like Zach Galifianakis's beard. Always have.

Also, for anyone who thinks I'm a comedy snob or an elitist. Check out the title of the post. It's a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, and it's not Howard's End.

3 comments:

Norm Schrager said...

And you use a line from Animal House as your headline... Pete, my man!

jesse said...

Totally agree with this stuff... Phillips is a lazy director who stumbles from scene to scene without building on anything. This movie isn't as terribly uneven as Old School, but it doesn't have Ferrell or Vaughn, either, so it's kind of a wash. I'll take Land of the Lost or Year One (to say nothing of truly excellent recent broad comedies like Superbad or Step Brothers) over this movie any day.

Though: I will defend Michael Mann on several counts. One, I wouldn't say it's accurate to say the public has inexplicably embraced him, because his highest grossing movie was Collateral, which just barely made $100 million. And while Collateral and Miami Vice certainly fit the "more amazing parts than a great whole" description, Heat and The Insider do not. When Mann is really on, he's pretty amazing.

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