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Entries in The Hangover (4)

Friday
Mar012013

21 and Over

You should know exactly what you’re getting when you walk into 21 and Over because the title explains it all. It’s another teen comedy that romanticizes the 21st birthday threshold and treats alcohol like it’s an all healing elixir. This isn’t a movie for those old enough to have actually experienced the night though. This is for those who dream about the day they can pop out their driver’s license and strut into a bar legally for the first time ever. Those people will find 21 and Over amusing, while in the process building up their dream birthday night even further, but the older crowd will walk out of this unimpressed, finding the shenanigans the characters get themselves into to be outlandish, despite some inevitable reminiscing on some of their own crazy nights. But what kills this movie from the same writers of The Hangover isn’t that it’s absurd (so was The Hangover); it’s that it’s not funny. At all.

Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) is a pre-med student, pressured into becoming a doctor by his pushy father (Francois Chau). In the morning, he has a very important medical school interview, so he needs to stay in and get some sleep, but it's his 21st birthday and his best friends, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), have surprised him with a visit and have other plans. Although they promise to have him home at a reasonable time, they end up getting him completely wasted. Soon, Jeff can't even speak and they don't know where he lives. Miller and Casey quickly find themselves in a race against time, doing their best to get Jeff hope and prepped so he doesn't miss the most important interview of his life.

Writing a comedy must be hard. Comedy screenwriters typically aren't consistent, at least not in the way a dramatic writer like Aaron Sorkin is. No, they can produce a hit, one that manages to keep the laughs coming at a consistent pace, but that in no way guarantees they'll be anything more than a one hit wonder. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of 21 and Over can attest to that. A quick glance at their filmography shows writing credits for Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Change-Up, The Hangover and The Hangover Part II. Precisely one of those movies was funny enough to be good. If their last couple movies are any indication, what they're doing now is no secret. They're trying to capture the magic that was The Hangover, but comedy requires surprise. It requires fresh ideas, not rehashes. They basically remade The Hangover with The Hangover Part II and now they've done it again with 21 and Over.

As with The Hangover movies, the story here revolves around a mystery: where exactly does Jeff live? They're give clues of course, but they're so blatantly obvious, it's insulting. When the characters finally figure it out 45 minutes to an hour after you already have, it means nothing. The story exists solely as a means for the characters to get in wacky situations and force as much alcohol down their throats as possible. This gives way to slow motion puking and the eating of a tampon, which, I suppose if you're really that drunk, could look like a candy bar.

This type of humor is of the lowest form. It grosses out to gain laughs, it tries to convince that the mere sight of a naked man is somehow funny and it overvalues the otherwise normal day that is someone's 21st birthday by devaluing things that actually matter like friendship and happiness. 21 and Over is the most wrongheaded party movie since last year's Project X, which shared a similar skewed view of the world, one that would be easy to dismiss were it not so sad. I don't want to over exaggerate; this is not a cinematic travesty—it contains at least a few legitimate laughs—but it's repulsive, immature and poorly written. It's a retread of Lucas and Moore's previous work, so why waste your time with it when the same, but superior film exists elsewhere?

21 and Over receives 0.5/5

Friday
Sep072012

Bachelorette

This week’s limited release, Bachelorette, is bound to remind most viewers of Bridesmaids and The Hangover, two films with similar ideas and settings, but whereas those movies had charm, smarts, mystery and laughs, Bachelorette has none. The story centers on four best friends, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Becky (Rebel Wilson), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher), who have all gathered together to celebrate Becky’s marriage and they’re the most appalling people you could possibly imagine. Aside from the relatively sweet and innocent Becky, these women are vile and ugly and they—supposed best friends—don’t evet treat other well, much less anyone else. The characters are too mean to be funny or likable and even at a brief 87 minutes, Bachelorette ends up being one of the biggest wastes of time of the year.

Shortly after the film begins, the four girls find themselves all together for the first time in a long time. Their way of reconnecting is to scold each other and bicker about events that happened many years ago. This early event is, believe it or not, the least unpleasant in the entire movie. Later, at the reception, Gena calls Becky out on her stint with bulimia in high school, which, if we’re putting a positive spin on things, was at least said to her face; most of the discussion that goes on about Becky is obscene, off-putting and behind her back, mostly directed towards her larger body type. Then, while on a drunken stupor, Regan, Gena and Katie rip her wedding dress while trying to fit two of them in it (because look how large it is!). It’s this event that puts them on a twilight adventure to fix the dress before the wedding the next morning and it’s a downward spiral from there.

The things these women say and do to each other and others are so despicable that they aren’t worthy of repeating here, but they aren’t the only awful characters. The men in the movie, spearheaded by Trevor, played by James Marsden, are just as bad. Early on, Trevor condones date raping Katie while she’s in a state of inability to consent, but not before heading to a local strip club seemingly for the sole purpose of demeaning the dancers. The only person that scrapes by unscathed is Joe, played by Kyle Bornheimer, who treats everyone as kind as can be and refuses to sleep with Katie, even as she (probably unknowingly) beckons him to do so. He’s the only person in the film with a conscience, but his presence comes off as contrived in a sea of such shamelessness, as if he was put there solely because the film needed someone who wasn’t a complete and utter ass.

No doubt some will call this a black comedy, where you would expect this type of behavior (it would be hard to justify liking it as anything else), but it’s not dark enough to be called such. Instead, it’s just incredibly mean-spirited. Seemingly the only time the characters don’t say something mean is when they’re too drunk or high to speak, which hardly qualifies them as upstanding individuals. Bachelorette comes off like a movie made for and by high school bullies, the pretty people who spoke down to others simply because of their quirky personalities or appearances.

Did I mention the film simply isn’t funny either? Of course, one wouldn’t expect it to be with characters as deplorable as this. Bachelorette is a wanna-be, a movie that tries so desperately to be like those aforementioned popular comedies, but mistakes cruelty for wit. It’s easily the most vicious movie of the year. To find amusement in it is to find amusement in hate.

Bachelorette receives 0.5/5

Tuesday
May242011

The Hangover Part II

There’s nothing wrong with a sequel sticking to its predecessor’s formula. Besides, if the first movie was popular, then it had to have done something correctly. Still, sequels should take the foundation of the original and build upon it, making it better. You have to be careful, though, because there’s a fine line between doing that and simply rehashing. To say a movie is “a rehash” is a movie critic cliché, but never has the word been more appropriate than with The Hangover Part II. Years from now, when critics are bashing a worthless sequel that does nothing but replay out the events of the original again, they’ll refer to this movie and justifiably so. So I guess the question is should you see it? You already have.

In the original film, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up with memory loss, unable to recall the night before. In the sequel, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up with memory loss, unable to recall the night before. Only this time, Stu is the one getting married, not Doug (Justin Bartha). Oh, and they’re in Thailand. Totally different.

The Hangover Part II, quite literally, is The Hangover repackaged in a different area and with a few new faces. It begins like the first movie, with Phil explaining that they won’t be able to make it back for the wedding, and then it proceeds forward with the guys trying to find clues as to the whereabouts of their lost friend, this time a guy named Teddy (Mason Lee). It follows the exact same path as the original film, straight down to the comedic situations the trio finds itself in, only with slight differences. When they wake up, they find a monkey in the room rather than a tiger. Stu now has a face tattoo rather a missing tooth. When they think they’ve found the missing person, it turns out to be someone else. It even goes so far as to recite at least half a dozen jokes from the original film verbatim. If it’s possible for a franchise sequel to inadvertently remake the original, The Hangover Part II has done it.

Considering that this movie has almost the exact same runtime as the first, I’m considering conducting an experiment to see if they match up. The two films are so similar I wouldn’t be surprised if they both hit the same narrative beats at the same time. Still, this beyond lazy approach to storytelling would be okay if the film produced constant laughs, but it doesn’t. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some good jokes; they were just funnier the first time I heard them two years ago. Because of its recurring, well, everything, The Hangover Part II comes off like a smug prank, one that is aiming to see just how much money it can steal from movie going patrons by showing the same thing.

There is nearly nothing in this vapid slapdash of a film worth noting. Its screenplay, when not a copy and paste job, fails even on the most basic levels. In their first adventure, the clues to Doug’s whereabouts came from clever writing that gave them just enough information to keep them moving forward. Here they come from arbitrary means. After arriving at a Buddhist monastery with nowhere left to go, I kid you not, Alan meditates, has a vision and discovers their next destination. It was like the writers couldn’t figure out how to credibly move the guys from place to place, so they deemed it unnecessary and simply forgot about it.

It’s rare to see such a large drop in quality from film to film in a franchise. While some are certainly better than others, a sequel that fails to live up to the excellent original is usually still pretty good, but that certainly isn’t the case this time. The Hangover made my best of the year list back in 2009, but its sequel is dangerously close to becoming one of this year’s worst.

The Hangover Part II receives 1.5/5

Friday
Nov052010

Due Date

If you told me a year ago that Todd Phillips, the man behind Old School and the underrated Road Trip, would follow up the funniest movie of last year, The Hangover (which has become the most successful R rated comedy of all time), with the dud that is Due Date, I would have laughed in your general direction, but that’s precisely what has happened. The Hangover made my best of the year list last year. Due Date most certainly will not.

At its core, Due Date is about two people with clashing personalities embarking on a cross country road trip and running into all kinds of shenanigans along the way. If that premise sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Robert Downey Jr. plays Peter, who is trying to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles as soon as possible because his wife is only days away from going into labor. But after a chance encounter on an airplane with Ethan, played by Zach Galifianakis, who starts to make passengers uneasy with his usage of words like “bomb” and “terrorist,” he is put on the “no fly” list and is forced to find another way home. Unfortunately, his bags are still on the plane and on their way to California, leaving him with no money or credit cards. Because of this, he reluctantly agrees to carpool with Ethan, who is also heading west.

If the excessive marketing is any indication, Due Date will make a good amount of money at the box office this weekend. You can’t turn a corner without seeing a poster and you can’t turn on the television without seeing a trailer. While I have no doubt it will put people in theater seats, this forceful push will prove to be its bane. It has almost become a cliché to say that every funny part is in the trailer, but never before has that sentiment been truer than with Due Date. I don’t exaggerate when I say that every single scene in the movie, other than the very last couple, is represented in the TV spots and theatrical trailers.

So the conundrum here is that there are laughs to be had, but you’ve most likely already had them. I recall nearly busting a gut watching the trailers, but I fell silent during the film. Most of the jokes I knew were coming and the ones I didn’t were so unfunny you could hear a cricket chirp in the theater.

It’s hard to believe that even with this problem the actors couldn’t pull it through. Downey Jr. and Galifianakis have proven to be charismatic and funny in the past, but both are deplorable here, more so due to the way their characters’ personalities were scripturally sculpted rather than any fault of their own. Ethan is so annoying, so prodding, so boorish, that you almost immediately hate him as soon as he shows up onscreen. Peter’s understandable aggravation with Ethan quickly becomes contagious.

I’m sure that’s the point, but at least one half of the equation needs to be likably represented, but Peter doesn’t fare much better. He’s an angry and violent individual who I was hoping would crash and burn before ever making it home, especially after he sucker punches a young kid in the stomach and warns him to stay quiet about it. If that’s how he’s going to act around a troublesome child, perhaps his baby would be better off growing up without a father.

Due Date is not funny. It’s as simple as that. The characters are wretched, the jokes are played out (including one that involves drinking somebody’s remains, a gag done much better in the sixth season of “South Park”) and the premise is tired. Galifianakis and Phillips are currently filming The Hangover 2, so let’s pray this was merely a quick cash grab to help them transition to a film they'll really pour their hearts into.

Due Date receives 2/5