REVIEW: The Hangover

20 08 2016

When I started writing this site over 7 years ago, it was the summer of “The Hangover.” This comedy sensation that came out of nowhere spawned Facebook wall posts and bumper stickers (remember those?) by the dozen. Lines entered the cultural lexicon at an unprecedented rate. Amidst 2009’s pretty great lineup of studio and indie entertainment, this was a film you wanted to go back and see again.

Obviously, much has changed since then. The original sensation went onto inspire a blatant cash-grab carbon copy sequel, and when director Todd Phillips and the Wolfpack tried to change courses for a third film, no one seemed to care anymore. By that point, Bradley Cooper reemerged as an Oscar-caliber actor, Ed Helms got bumped up the big desk at TV’s “The Office,” and Zach Galifianakis’ career began to sputter out doing similar schtick. Todd Phillips has only just returned to the directors’ chair, and unsurprisingly, he’s doing a bit of a career pivot of his own a la Adam McKay.

But do all these transformations do anything to diminish the original? Does “The Hangover” deserve to sit on such a high pedestal? Have all the rip-offs and imitators it spawned tarnished the sheen? Or, perhaps a bigger personal question for me … is the film so great because it came out around my 17-year-old summer? (A recent article on The Ringer made a pretty compelling case for why that year seems to always stand out when polling people’s favorite summer movie season.)

I rewatched start to finish the film for the first time in several years; I specify because I watched five to ten minute snippets constantly for the year or two it dominated HBO airwaves. The short answer – yes, it still holds up. Years later, “The Hangover” is one of the few comedies that can generate chuckles and belly laughs from home.

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REVIEW: The Hangover Part III

17 06 2013

Two summers ago, I expressed my frustration with the inertia of the “Hangover” franchise in my review for the carbon-copy sequel.  I wrote, “‘The Hangover Part II‘ is like breathing in airplane air.  Recycled, stale, but better than not having air to breathe at all.  In essence, it gives you exactly what you expected – and nothing more.”  Had I known yet another follow-up was in the pipelines, I would have begged the question, “Is it too much to ask for something different?”

In which case, I would never have been so unhappy to have a movie give me exactly what I asked of it.  “The Hangover Part III” is definitely not the same as its predecessors.  But lest we forget, change is not always good.  In this case, it’s just kind of depressing to see how fast and hard a comedic sensation can fall.  The series’ legacy will now likely be one of a studio that took a truly original concept, hackneyed it to the point of annoyance, and then besmirched its name entirely.

In fact, it’s hard to call “The Hangover Part III” much a comedy at all.  Sure, there’s the occasional clever quip, but the writers’ new plot structure forays the series into a new genre entirely.  It’s essentially a chase film, an action-thriller that squeezes out a laugh every once in a while.

The so-called “comedy” of this installment is lazy and, quite frankly, offensive.  The nuance of the original “Hangover” is long gone, replaced here by cheap gags that are above the most immature of middle schoolers.  All “The Hangover Part III” has to offer is homophobic humor, offering up gays as objects to be ridiculed.

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Random Factoid #566

26 05 2011

With “The Hangover Part II” now in theaters, I thought it would be as good a time as ever to revisit some slightly old news from the series’ director, Todd Phillips.  In an interview with Elvis Mitchell of Movieline, he had this to say about the unrated edition of the original film:

“Warner Bros., they’ll make your movie; your movie does well, and they want to create an unrated version, which is entirely against DGA rules because it’s not your cut. And they can’t call it the ‘Director’s Cut’ — they’ll call it ‘Unrated’ or some ridiculous term. Really all it is, is about seven minutes of footage that you cut out of the movie for a reason.”

I certainly loved hearing someone in the biz back up my opinions as stated in Random Factoid #11:

“I hate watching unrated cuts of movies.  I always want to see the theatrical cut because after seeing ‘Bruno,’ I found out that anything can get an R-rating.  The director could include practically whatever he wanted, but there is a reason that he did not include it in the version that the masses go see.  So I figure that the rated version, while tamer, is probably what the director wanted you to see.”

And when I watched the unrated cut of “Date Night” last August, as reported in Random Factoid #386, I felt much of what Phillips described:

“I have a feeling that the word ‘3D’ is headed the way of the word ‘unrated.’  About a decade ago, ‘unrated’ was something fairly unique.  Now it has become a marketing gimmick to make a little extra profit off some unsuspecting consumers.  See the correlation?

Why did I decided to give this extended edition, basically a tamer way of saying unrated, a whirl?  The theatrical cut of ‘Date Night’ was so short that I wanted to see more.  And more I got.  Not sure if it was worth the 13 minutes of my sleep, but I still enjoyed some of the extra bits.”

His cameo in "The Hangover."

There’s a rhyme and reason for what directors do.  Pacing and timing is incredibly important, lessons I’ve learned from acting on stage, watching the play I wrote get directed, and from seeing plenty of movies where the two concepts are handled terribly wrong.  Especially in comedy, where timing is everything, the director has to establish the rhythm of the movie.

The material for unrated cuts belong in deleted scenes; if this were so, the viewer could still appreciate the humor without disrupting the structure of the film itself.  As much as a director may like something, it sometimes doesn’t work in the grand scheme of things.  I had to learn this lesson in the production of my play as several of my favorite dialogue snippets got axed.  But you do it because you care about how the work functions as a whole, not in one special moment, and Phillips seems to care about preserving the integrity of the whole.  Warner Bros. should respect the wishes of someone in the business who actually has such interests in mind.





Random Factoid #331

24 06 2010

After 17 months, my wait is over.  Back in February 2009, I cracked my four-month-old iPhone.  I’ve been living with my flawed screen ever since, waiting for a model worthy of my money to be released.  A few weeks ago, that phone was announced.

I waited two hours in line today outside the Apple Store in the Houston Galleria this morning to get my hands on the iPhone 4.

What’s the first thing I did – that is, after I slapped the only available case on it?  Added 4 movies to it – “Knocked Up,” “The Hangover,” “Superbad,” and “Inglourious Basterds.”   Finally, I will be able to watch movies on my phone again!

In case you were curious, here’s what my old phone looked like.  I can almost guarantee you’ll be as shocked at the Geniuses at the Apple Store.

Like my crack?





The Comedy Flops of 2009

4 06 2010

I don’t often put much thought into what is written on DVD cases.  However, I saw a particularly interesting one on the cover of “Year One.”  Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald wrote:

“I double dare anyone not to laugh.”

So, I decided to take Mr. Rodriguez’s dare.  Easier done than said.  I think I laughed more in “Revolutionary Road” than I did in “Year One.”

A few weeks later, I found myself watching “Land of the Lost.”  On the DVD case for that instant classic, Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said:

“Laugh-out-loud funny!”

I never LOLed, although I did chuckle a few times.  These weren’t mild laughs; they were a response to very uncomfortable situations that I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to.

We laugh off these two movies now like an age-old joke; they somehow have quickly come to be the quintessence of comedic failure.  But back in June 2009, “Year One” and “Land of the Lost” had massive expectations.  They were supposed to rake in the money while making audiences howl with laughter.  But as we all know, they both fell flat on their faces in both respects.

Fast forward to today, 2010, and the studios are praying they haven’t got another comedic dud on their hands.  Universal, who was responsible “Land of the Lost,” brings us “Get Him to the Greek” on June 4; Sony, guilty for “Year One,” gives us “Grown Ups” on June 25.  These studios would nothing more than to have their latest releases become the new “The Hangover,” a modest comedy which far exceeded anyones expectations.

There are reasons why “Year One” and “Land of the Lost” flopped, and both share a lot of the same missteps.  Allow me to elaborate…

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Random Factoid #306

30 05 2010

This post was partially derived in my own head, but there was a major impetus by Red’s “Greatest Comedy Ever Tournament.”

I love quoting comedies.  I do it to the point where it borders on becoming a vice.

So naturally, when “The Hangover” lit the world on fire, I managed to learn almost every line only seeing it once (I won’t lie, Facebook helped a lot).  Over time, I began to say one particularly memorable quote a little too much.

It’s not a purse; it’s a satchel.  Indiana Jones wears one.

Long story short, I said it so much that people had to tell me to shut up and never say it again.  So now I quote with a little more discretion.





Random Factoid #271

25 04 2010

Do you ever hear a song in a movie and from then on forever associate it with that movie?

Well, I do.  Last night at prom, I heard Flo-Rida’s “Right Round” for the first time in months.  While the song played, I could not stop thinking about “The Hangover.”  If you are one of the 10 people in the world that haven’t seen the movie, you wouldn’t know that the song played over the hilarious ending credits.  Anyone that has seen the movie does not need me to go into detail.

I knew the song before I saw “The Hangover;” really, anyone who listened to the radio knew it too.  But now, the song will forever me connected with the movie.