Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hungover Again

The bite size review: It’s 3/4th’s as good as the first. Only because the first…was first. If the Hangover II was first, the Hangover would be 3/4th’s as good. It’s the EXACT same movie. It’s just that little bit you lose when cloning. Nothing new to gain, but the sequel didn’t lose anything either. The Hangover II is still very much worth your time and theater money. You will laugh from the gut and isn’t that all that really matters?

Further thoughts: There is a tipping point to passion. When it’s “almost” (I use this sarcastically) no longer fun, because you’re so nervous, so into it and in such a state of anticipatory bliss it rakes your nervous system over the coals. You’re almost irritated until you experience the anguish and nervousness you’ve been craving. The event.

That’s where I’ve been all week about The Hangover II.

I know what you’re thinking, “Zerf, it’s not that serious,” and my answer would be sarcastically, “nothing is, kid…nothing is,” but just as I refer to everything I write here as “drivel,” it’s all serious shit to me. I was really nervous to watch this movie, because I didn’t want Zach Galifiankis and Ed Helms to come up short and be lame. We all saw what happened to Vincent Chase when he bombed on the big time stage.

Which brings us back to the beginning…

Summer of 2009, the Hangover graced us with an unexpected summer blockbuster. I don’t think anyone would have imagined the success it would eventually garner. At the time, Bradley Cooper was the big star and he was B list at best. Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis were pretty much unknowns. At the very least, they weren’t box office names you could bank on. They took a simple frat boy concept, going to Vegas and having…shit…go…down, but they had the weapon of dynamic, separating it from the pack (not the wolfpack).

Galifiankis shined as an extremely sands of Sahara dry, dufus. Ed Helms adds his zany spin on someone trying to be normal and perhaps slightly uptight, when in fact they are O.C.D. Bradley Cooper works as the glue—with sex appeal and candor—holding it all together with his take on ladies man with a soft heart and enough sensibility to keep everyone else in check.

The original had a production budget of around $35 million dollars and Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis took in a mere $300,000 a piece. Chump change in Hollywood. The movie went on to be the best selling rated-R comedy in history grossing $277,000+ worldwide, placing it 49th overall domestically, putting it just behind Meet the Fockers and just above Shrek.

It’s safe to say it worked.

This time around, the budget ballooned to $80 million and the “Vegas trio” were dished their sheckles as well, to the tune of $5 million a piece with a 4% cut of the profits. Needless to say, they will start getting residual checks dating prior to half way through Memorial Day weekend. But, I was never worried about the money.

I want these guys to get paid, yes, but I was more concerned with the product. Now that Galafiankis surprised the world and became a world-wide star and Helms has begun to solidify some steam of his own, would the Hangover lose its luster? It’s obviously no longer an underdog story for the Vegas trio. They have expectations and expectations eat lesser entities ALIVE.

I watched the Hangover II gripping my chair the entire time, very similar to how I watched No Country for Old Men. The second offering has a slightly more serious tone as it’s set mostly in Bangkok, which even on screen keeps one a little uneasy. I can’t imagine what it’s like in real life.

What worried me the most was the bigger budget being sunk into big time action sequences, like the one shown by Ed Helms on Jimmy Fallon’s show. The scene has Helms trying to get a little monkey back inside a vehicle whizzing in and out of traffic. Things like that would take the viewer away from what should be the bread and butter of this movie—comedic timing between three extremely funny guys. It does seem a bit out of context, except for the fact that it’s a freekin’ MONKEY. Ha. The monkey takes the 4th lead in this movie very nicely and overall one isn’t taken back by over-effort and unnecessary production measures.

The bottom line of it all is, Todd Phillips wrote a way to properly use the stand up genius of Zach Galifianakis. I also think it’s astounding and downright unfair that some people STILL don’t realize that ZG is a long time standup comedian. If you think of the entire history of stand up comedians from the greats to up-and-comers, there aren’t many examples of them being used effectively on the big screen (Steve Martin and Robin Williams are the only ones I can think of) as if their own stand up material seeped through the screen and into your heart via osmosis. Even if they have, the blend of comedic, critical and box-office success of The Hangover has never been matched. It sets the standard of how to use a standup comedian properly in a movie. Bravo Todd Phillips, others that have had ZG all these years must be jealous.

Most of the jokes Galifianakis delivers in the Hangover are formulamatic rewrites of his own standup he’s been doing for over a decade. It just doesn’t get old. Like any good stand up routine you can listen to over and over, watching the Hangover movies is like a series of taking those jokes and placing them in scenes. It makes Zach’s jokes come to life. Much of my enjoyment from these Hangover flicks derives from the fact that other people now get to enjoy the dry wit of saying the absolute worst thing possible at the least appropriate times. There is an art to it and I’m really glad it wasn’t lost in budgets, remakes and people’s sheer hatred of sequels.

Galifianakis has a couple of projects in the works with none other than Will Ferrell. That’s enough to make my head explode! I can hardly take it!

So let the critics say what they will…just shut your brain off for a bit and watch some shit that will make you laugh. It’s really as simple as that. Why do people make going to movies so complicated?

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