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Summertime Rolls: The Hangover (and French thrillers and Iraq movies)

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Is there a correlation between the trailers before a movie to the one that you are about to see?  Are the trailers programmed to give you clues to the tone and/or quality of the movie ahead? Shouldn’t there have been some comedy trailers before The Hangover?

I was a little nervous for, you know, the comedic aspects of The Hangover as I watched the trailer something called The Hurt Locker, which is another one of those bleached-out, desolate Iraq War movies. The trailer touts all sorts of awards this thing has already won, but it looks like a drag, and here is why:  way, way too much sand.

Haven’t all Iraq War movies tanked?  The Kingdom, In The Valley of Elah, Stop/Loss… no one wanted to go out and see these movies. Even the prestigious HBO series Generation Kill, which allowed people to not even leave their houses didn’t generate much interest.  Not sure about House of Saddam (also on HBO), but I don’t know anyone who watched it.  Do you?

My theory is that no one wants to watch movies set in such an ugly landscape. Vietnam movies, which take place in the lush greens of the jungle, did pretty well. Glory?  The beautiful vistas of the southeastern United States.    And the recent spate of WWII movies, which let you watch carnage unfold in the French countryside, were all big hits.

But when they moved the subject to the Pacific Theater, which was primarily fought on ugly volcanic islands, no one went to see the movies.  As great as Letters From Iwo Jima was, let’s face it; it was a pretty brown movie.


Ain't That Pretty At All

Ain't That Pretty At All

The message, I guess, is that our government should plan wars in beautiful locales, if only for the box office success of the movies to come.

Anyway, The Hangover.  Better than Wedding Crashers, not as good as Old School.  In fact, the template for this movie borrowed EXTREMELY liberally from Old School, also directed by Todd Phillips. You’ve got the three guys on a mission (to start a fraternity in OS, to find their missing buddy in The Hangover).  Zach Galifianikis stands in for Will Ferrell as the wacky oddball, Ed Helms while taking the hen-pecked husband aspects Will Ferrell’s character, mainly acts as the voice of reason, a la Luke Wilson.  And Bradley Cooper is the wise-ass who hates being married, but secretly loves it- i.e. Vince Vaughn.

So is The Hangover funny enough to recommend it?  Of course- and it isn’t as derivative as I made it seem in the last paragraph.  In fact, I find that it is hard to write about it without giving away a lot of the jokes, the plot… the developments that unfold, from which so much of the funny in this movie derives.

I think that is what is coolest about The Hangover.  At its base level, it follows the beats of a who-dunnit thriller.  I also watched a French thriller called Tell No One in pretty close proximity to The Hangover– in it, a doctor who thought his wife had been killed eight years prior begins to get emails and video from her.

That’s the set up, and the movie is so twisty-turny, that we had to turn it off while we were eating breakfast so as not to miss any of the details (we watched Daisy of Love, which was easier to follow).  The audience knows only as much as the main character, and the fun of the movie is solving the mystery along with him. 

Same thing with The Hangover.  Yeah, you get all the funny set pieces, the “I Can’t Believe They Showed That” moments, and great one-liners (“Give me a call.  Don’t text me, it’s gay”).  But structurally, the movie is more innovative than most movies of this ilk- it is fairly ingenious, actually. As funny as it is, it tries for a bit more and gives the audience exactly the same information as the characters.  What’s up with the missing tooth?  The tiger? The impaled mattress?  The baby?  Every question gets an answer, and they are all pretty great.

That said, a few quibbles.  The actual hangover these guys would be feeling would be crippling, methinks. Aside from a bit of upchuck courtesy of Ed Helms, they never seemed as crushed as they should have been. And the scene with Mike Tyson didn’t really work for me- it felt very “Scooby Doo Cameo.”

But those are small issues… this movie gives you what you want, and maybe more than that. I’ve heard they are planning a sequel, but I can’t imagine where that would go.  If you see this, you’ll know what I mean.


2 responses »

  1. A little bleak eh..Siskel would be proud 🙂

  2. Lynne Beauprez

    I totally agree that the guys from the Hangover would not have been as perky after that night of debauchery! I can’t picture where a sequel would go either. We were very entertained by the mystery-to-be-solved sequencing (although I always knew where the guy was).


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