What’s so funny about The Hangover?
10 June, 2009
Seriously. I’m genuinely scratching my head over this. I sat for 90 minutes in a reasonably crowded cinema full of moviegoers howling like hyenas from start to finish while I was only able to muster up a single, audible laugh. The film has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and several of my friends — intelligent people whose judgment I respect very much — have been raving about it since its release. Question: Is it just me?
Firstly, the film features some of the most uninteresting characters I have ever encountered. The groom-to-be has the personality of a swimming pool in a retirement home and his bride-to-be isn’t much better. Meanwhile, his friends consist of an uptight nerd who is afraid of his domineering wife, a fat guy who for some reason has the mental capacity of a peanut, and an unlikable alpha male who puts everyone and everything down for the sake of it. Nothing about them is endearing, nothing about them is unique, and therefore the odds of me giving half a damn about their plight are quite simply non-existent.
All the best gags are in the trailer, and really, that’s not saying very much. There’s a tiger in the bathroom. Uh-oh! There’s a strange baby in the room. Uh-oh! The fat guy bumped the baby’s head on the car door. Uh-oh! The biggest selling point in the marketing is the fact that Mike Tyson has a cameo and demonstrates that he is a terrible singer. I can see that for free on YouTube and it won’t take up 90 minutes of my life:
Ultimately, The Hangover is just a bunch of crude gags strung together in place of an actual story. It’s yet another film in which grown-ups act like teenage nitwits while Todd Phillips struggles to execute even the simplest of punch-lines effectively. To be fair, it doesn’t help when the screenplay resorts to tasteless jokes about an Asian gangster who is also a screaming queen. I wonder if the critics would give the film a pass if he were black.
Throughout the film, three other pictures kept running through my head: Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas, Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. All three are quoted at least once in The Hangover, and all three have one other thing in common: They all hate Vegas. Yet Todd Phillips is still holding onto that infantile, adolescent belief that Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults as opposed to the leading candidate for the 10th Circle of Hell. In the end, that’s what bothered me so much about The Hangover. Only in a film this stupid would the nerdy character meet up with Heather Graham playing the hooker with a heart of gold with a happily-ever-after conclusion looming over the subplot like a dark cloud. What’s next? A Judd Apatow romantic-comedy about New York in the 1970s and how much fun all that social unrest and depravity was?
Finally, Zach Gafilianakis is not that funny. At best, he’s a mildly amusing bur rather forgettable fat guy, and at worst, he is the kind of comedian who injects every line reading with that, “Look at me I’m supposed to be funny!” sort of obnoxiousness. He just happens to be subtle about it, which is why everyone has fallen in love with him. But the Asian gay stereotype basically sums him, and the rest of the movie up: “It’s funny because it’s fat.”