Sunday, June 07, 2009

JayRo Watches Movies: The Hangover

The Hangover looks like this summer's big comedy spectacle, and it's well deserved. The Hangover is incredibly funny, with good intentions behind it. It does follow in the Apatow genre of being guy movies centred around 30-somethings acting stupid and then growing up, but this helps the film.

The movie centres around the bachelor party of Todd, or more specifically the day after. One problem - Todd is nowhere to be found. It's left to Alan, Stu and Phil to sift through the items they have collected to figure out what exactly happened the night before (they do not have any memory of the night before because they were drugged.) This leads them through a tour of Vegas which includes many casinos, strip clubs, emergency rooms, wedding chapels and Mike Tyson's home.

I've been surprised by the reviews though; a lot have taken to compare The Hangover to Very Bad Things (see Brian D. Johnson's review, for example.) While not only diminishing the comedic performances in the Hangover, it misses the mark completely in being a fair comparison. Beyond the obvious shallow comparisons (bachelor party in Vegas gone horribly awry), the films themselves could not be any further apart in both tone and themes.

Very Bad Things is a film about the breakdown of a moral code in the interest of self-preservation. It makes no pretenses about it's characters; it relies on you hating the characters so that when they get killed/harmed, you will laugh and feel good about it. The Hangover is as much about the bond of friendship as anything else. What drives the characters is that they are trying to find a missing friend. They are willing to do whatever is necessary to find and/or get their friend back. (You also get indications of the friendship through the Stu subplot.)

Very Bad Things is also a movie that could be slightly tweaked and be just as good in another genre (make one of the guys more sympathetic to turn them into the protagonist, then make the movie into a suspense/thriller where the guys are getting killed off one by one and you have a perfectly fine, if not predictable, film.) The Hangover does not work as anything but a comedy without significant changes.

Very Bad Things is based off of knowledge. You know what has happened, and you are watching to see what the consequences are of what happened. The Hangover relies on discovery. You know as much as the characters do throughout the movie, which is one of the main factors that makes the Hangover work. It makes you feel as though you are a part of this bachelor search party - a benefit of making you like the characters.

But ultimately, what makes the comparison between The Hangover and Very Bad Things fail is what was done in each movie. The Hangover is a bunch of pranks done by the lead characters - and even then these pranks are done while the characters are drunk. The drunkenness provides an out, so that you can believe that the characters would not be so careless with a baby (for example.) Very Bad Things has the main characters accidentally killing a hooker, and then proceeding to get more and more violent in order to protect themselves. The audience can't relate to this - hence the "black comedy" label.

Ultimately, The Hangover stands on it's own. It is a hilarious film that everybody should enjoy and relate to, regardless of sex or age. Go see it now.

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