Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE HANGOVER

By doing a convincing mimicry-job of the rushing and hazing behaviors of on-campus fraternity life in his faux-documentary Frat House, director Todd Phillips must have either spent time as a brother himself or admired the "Greek culture" from afar, because The Hangover continues his affinity for widescreen frat house humor. That's not a good thing. Low-brow comedy can be just fine, but as one of its splintered-off branches, frat house humor rarely is. This is forgettable walk-by comedy, and in the form of a motion picture it's a barely passable form of entertainment that you can fold your laundry to (i.e. an irrelevant TV projection that you can take your eyes off of for to 30-90 seconds without missing a beat).

An intoxicated state-of-mind often reacts positively to such banality as a tazer gun shot to the crotch or a used condom being tossed around the car like a hot potato, and because the American mind on leisure time is frequently of that type, it's no surprise that The Hangover has been such a R-rated boobs n' brews smash. Balls too! Yes, in what's becoming one of modern crude comedy's easiest stock gags, The Hangover doesn't forget to include the requisite full-on floppy cock n' balls moment. The fact that that flaccid sex organ is attached to a raging, naked Chinese kingpin who comes flying out of a trunk with a crowbar and commences to bust skulls, makes this moment The Hangover's pinnacle frat house peak. The scene has the sub-genre's essential elements: uncomfortable nudity, foreign people, and hard violence.

Todd Phillips dropped out of film school at an early age and it continues to show. His technique consists of pushing "record", a style not learned, but discovered when any one of us is handed a video camera for the first time. Sadly, a recorded stand-up routine on Comedy Central or HBO has more cinematic flourish in its efficient, economic approach than what you will find in a Todd Phillips' film. There's certainly nothing wrong with a film mainly consisting of stunts or set pieces rather than a compelling storyline, but The Hangover is just plain unfun to look at. It's directed with a cloud of laziness that I'd imagine comes off of those sets where actors talk about "how much fun" they had while filming.

Never one to portray too pleasant a view of the ladies, The Hangover is Todd Phillips at his most female unfriendly. Heather Graham is not quite the "stripper with a heart of gold" but something more along the lines of a "pole dancer who's sorta sweet"; the other two prominently featured actresses play stereotypical balls-in-a-vice-grip bitches. While Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's argument over fantasy baseball lies in Knocked-Up had a twinge of "really?!" to it, at least that marital conflict reached for genuine male/female relationship rocky-ness. From watching Phillips' films, I'm convinced he's never felt a thing for a woman, instead being too pre-occupied with pleasing his bros instead of connecting with the hos (check the way Phillips preens for the camera in his cunnilingus cameo in an elevator... if that was intended to be an Aerosmith joke, the dude's more pathetic than I thought).

In a last ditch effort to say something positive here, I will concede that Zach Galifianakis does his creepy Tim & Eric best to make something interesting appear on screen, and that Ed Helms turns in another consistent performance as a sideman. But god, as soon as something complimentary comes out of my mouth, the remembrance of that idiotic wedding singer sequence comes to mind. Oh, how fresh the shtick is of seeing an ironic white-boy singing 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" to an old dancing couple. Yeesh. Perhaps the key to tolerating The Hangover is to strap on some comedic beer goggles before entering the theater. Like the accessories that've come with the recent 3D craze, maybe movie studios and theaters should consider investing in some.

17 comments:

Rick Olson said...

My God, Fox. You really need to be a little more direct. I think you're going just a little too easy on Phillips.

Reel Whore said...

Ouch. I believe I felt the aftershock of that kick to the cock you just delivered Phillips! Might I assume you're not an Old School fan either?

Krauthammer said...

Zach Galifianakis is the funniest person alive to these eyes, so my reaction to this movie has been fairly schizophrenic. First happy he had a job, then depressed at how bad the movie looked. Then a bit more hopeful seeing at the relatively good reviews it's gotten and now...well, to borrow a bit of Reel Whore's language, what a cock punch!

Fox said...

Rick-

Actually, I tried calling the guy in order to be as direct as I could, but I think he's screening my calls. This post seemed like the second best approach.

Reel Whore-

Nah. No love for Old School either, much to the chagrin of some of my closest friends... but I just can't stand the damn thing! And again, I like some of the actors in it, it's just the sum whole is poo.

Fox said...

Krauthammer-

See it and let me know what you think. I will say that Galifianakis does not sell out. He's still his bizarre self. But I'd rather watch his stand-up or Vodka Movies.

Do you like Tim & Eric too?

Krauthammer said...

I don't watch them regularly, but yeah, at their best they reach a kind of perfect absurdism that's right up my alley.

Daniel Getahun said...

Awesome. Always nice to come here and get an unobstructed view of reality. You've more than relieved any doubt I may have yet had that by missing this movie I missed anything of significance. I just couldn't (can't) believe how many people told me it was "so well written". What does that even mean in the context of a movie such as the one you describe?

As much as there are aspects to Old School that I like (namely Ferrell, Vaughn, and Piven), I've also been on the outside looking in as far as the "best comedies of all time" discussion is considered.

But nevermind, here we are looking at what may end up as one of the overall top 3 hits of the summer.

Fox said...

Daniel-

"So well written"?!?! In that there was a beginning and and end?

Gotta say that I don't get that at all. However, if it continues it's chart topping success, watch it get a nom for screenplay at the Golden Globes.

What's most interesting about The Hangover is it's through the ceiling success. Why it over, say, I Love You Man, which did well, but not THIS well. I think the rush of marketing for The Hangover right as it was coming out was pretty brilliant, and may be a strategy others will follow in the future instead of starting the marketing of a June film all the way back in December.

And I think we can forget the Top 3box office titan of the summer talk and maybe get on to Top 3 of the YEAR! I mean, yesterday, on a Monday during the summer (!), The Hangover took in two million more than Up did, and we're talking about a Rated R movie vs. a super-popular PG rated cartoon in the summertime!!!

Up next for Phillips... sequels...

Old School Dos and Road Trip II : Beer Pong.

Fletch said...

That's my Fox - ever the contrarian. I look forward to your review of, oh I don't know, Year One, where you call it a 'seminal work' or something like that. ;)

"The fact that that flaccid sex organ is attached to a raging, naked Chinese kingpin who comes flying out of a trunk with a crowbar and commences to bust skulls, makes this moment The Hangover's pinnacle frat house peak."

Full disclosure: I was never in a frat. Could you please tell me what naked, crowbar-wielding men have to do with the sort of generic frats (and/or frat boys) you're referencing? I'm not seeing the connection at all.

At least you didn't use the word 'man-child,' a severely overused term that just about everyone applies to just about every comedy released these days.

"Why it over, say, I Love You Man, which did well, but not THIS well."

Well, yeah, marketing is definitely part of it, but frankly, IT'S FUNNIER! And it had AWESOME word of mouth, as evidenced by it's minimal drop in its second weekend.

Fox said...

Fletch-

I don't mean "frat house humor" to be specifically tied-to frat boys, nor do I mean to single out fraternities as the only place where this type of humor sells. Rather, it's just my way of labeling a brand of low-brow brotherhood humor at its basest level (ie naked men going crazy violent).

Of course, the films of Todd Phillips would likely be popular at a frat party because drinking and loud noise and man violence are all characteristics of that lifestyle, but it's definitely not exclusive to it. And I don't even mean to bad-mouth frat guys. I'm not a nerd with a chip on his shoulder.

I just think this stuff is low-level entertainment at it's worst. Made worser that it didn't make me laugh once (unless you count a grin or two from some things Galifiniakis did). What peeves me more is that films like Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess With the Zohan and Chuck and Larry get trashed for being low-brow "dumb" humor, but the truth is, those low-brow films have more brains, and truth, and sensitivity than a Phillips film could ever hope for. Things are backwards, man.

Hokahey said...

This movie didn't work for me at all. Most people in the audience were laughing, and I could see that some of the situations SHOULD be funny, but they just didn't work. Bad timing, bad writing. I liked the hook - the guys wake up in a trashed suite with a chicken, a tiger, and a baby; they call for their car, and it's a cop car. That should have been funny. But what they discover is just not funny - not clever enough. The Mike Tyson sequence was a flop. And I wanted to know how the chicken got there!

Tommy Salami said...

Must agree with your review, just saw it- for free, mind you- and found it entertaining but completely forgettable. I think the missing Ecstasy got put in Ebert and some other reviewer's colas. Best I can say is "not crap" and Zack G & Ken jeong steal the show without much effort.

Anonymous said...

It should get golden globes however if it did, it would be a huge upset as the current favourite to win is something called Nine. Having said that The Hangover deserves everything it's nominated for.

Anonymous said...

Awsome and hilarious movie.

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DTG Reviews said...

This is very interesting and hilarious movie. I guess it similar in humor type to the Old School film with both serious and silly mixed in.

victoryab said...

The Hangover's easyslimgb.com pinnacle frat house peak. The dropweightgb.com scene has the sub-genre's essential elements: uncomfortable thinningquick.com nudity, foreign people, and hard violence.

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