The Hangover (2009)

It seems that every year, an R-rated comedy aimed squarely at young men (20s and 30s) with largely cynical outlooks on romance and imagined pretentions toward Rat Pack-style aloof hedonism (the audience, not the movies) comes out and makes a fuck-ton of money, and EVERY year people act like it’s some massive surprise. Wait… what?? Specifically-targeting the audience that goes to see the MOST movies makes you MONEY!!?? Why are we still treating this as a surprise occurance?

This year’s entry is “The Hangover,” best thought-of as “Bachelor Party” to “40 Year-Old Virgin’s” “Revenge of The Nerds.” As is typical of the genre, it’s primarily a guy-movie wish-fulfillment fantasy dressed up as a raunchy comedy. As is not necessarily as typical, it’s pretty freaking hillarious.

The story: A quartet of guy-comedy archetypes – Smooth Operator (Bradley Cooper), Henpecked Wimp (Ed Helms), Immature Weirdo (Zach Galifianakis) and MacGuffin (Justin Bartha) – head to Vegas for a Bachelor Party in advance of MacGuffin’s upcoming wedding. Smooth Operator is along to facillitate the coolness and offer the audience-agreement-inducing declarations against the folly of marriage and pretty much the taking of anything seriously. Henpecked Wimp is briefly fleeing the suffocation of his unbearably-controlling girlfriend. Immature Weirdo is the younger brother of MacGuffin’s fiancee, along to aid in the production of offbeat plot developments.

The hook: The screen fades to white at the very beginning of the evening’s revelry, then rejoins the heroes as they awaken in a partied-into-oblivion hotel suite. They’re memories of the prior evening are complete blanks (traces of Rohyphnol in their system), and MacGuffin has gone missing. With the still-impending wedding providing the ticking-clock, they must re-trace their non-remembered steps using only the perplexing (and amusing) evidence yielded from the room; including but not limited to a missing tooth, a hospital bracelet, ATM reciepts, a live tiger locked in their bathroom and an unidentified baby. Mike Tyson (playing himself) is also involved, in a cameo that was perhaps much funnier before his most recent family tragedies.

If you are perhaps inclined to assume that, over the course of their journey, Smooth Operator will have his ego punctured and perhaps learn to treat life more seriously, Henpecked Wimp will meet a more likable woman and learn to stand up to his worser-half, Immature Weirdo will reveal amazing and vital dexterity in a previously laughed-at skill and the ultimate answer to the whereabouts of MacGuffin will be head-slappingly less complicated than they assumed… well, give yourself a cookie.

It is, ultimately, a little predictable and swimming in the same waters as hundreds of similar films beforehand, but the cast has great chemistry and the jokes land with impressive regularity. Yes, you’ve seen most of them before from “Wacky Ethnic Stereotype Baddie” to “Wild Animal Wakes Up In Fancy Car,” but good-execution makes all the difference. It’s also expertly cast on the supporting side – Jeffery Tambor OWNS with just a handful of lines and a perfect wink, and Heather Graham deftly carries the weight of the world as the film’s mandatory lone redeeming female voice (guy-movie wish-fulfillment fantasy #3532: Angelically-sweet hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold saves you from hatefully-cruel career-oriented “snobby” girlfriend.) Graham remains a tremendously under-used actress, a walking-embodiment of the catch-22 of being too pretty for one’s own good – just watch: When/if she ages from a 10 to an 8 or a 9, suddenly people are going to “discover” how good she is.

The main guys all aquit themselves nicely, but the starmaking turn is from Cooper. It’s not that he’s necessarily the “best” of the characters, but he’s damn good and more importantly he’s got the Vince Vaughn/Bill Murray role: The one who most guys in the audience will work extra hard to imagine that “they’d be” in a real-life version of this situation – when, of course, most of them are really Helms or Galifianakis.

It’s hard to review these without blowing jokes, so take my word for it: The trailers didn’t lie, it’s funny as hell, see it before all your friends quote it verbatim to you.

Land of The Lost (2009)

So, “Land of The Lost” is the first official outright BOMB of the Summer… huge, huge dissapointment at the boxoffice. Having seen it, I’m honestly not surprised. It’s a huge mess, fundamentally inconsequential and aimed at a shockingly miniscule niche of an audience… that’s a recipe for a non-starter if I ever heard one.

Strange, too, since you’d think this would be a slam dunk: The original Sid & Marty Kroft TV show it was based on is the definition of a fondly-remembered kiddie show that just does NOT “hold up” now, but it was a success in it’s day and is remembered by it’s now-grown young fans based more on what it COULD have been rather that what it was. Here was a series that pakced youth-oriented survival-adventure, time-travel, pulpy scifi, dinosaurs, monsters and oddball ancient mysteries into a story that could easily make for a big fun family “genre” film perfect for summer… a kid-friendly self-contained cousin to “Lost.”

The film, though, goes in the opposite direction: Rather than revamping the franchise for a new generation of the youngin’s it was aimed at in the first place, it’s set up as a self-aware parody of the original show aimed at 30-somethings who recall the original with ironic fondness.

As it stands, what winds up onscreen is a collection of comedy sketches spoofing the sillier parts of the show, with Will Ferrel, Anna Friel and Danny McBride engaging in longform stream-of-consciousness banter amid dinosaurs, lizard-men and whatever. In terms of tone, think “Robot Chicken” – only not very funny and stretched out from a quick 15 minutes to an interminable feature-length.

Taken on their own, a couple of the jokes are funny and the cast has an easygoing chemistry, but they can’t overcome a “screenplay” thay overdoses on the laziest form of comedy filammking: The main cast just standing around going back and forth about nonsense to advance the plot. It even resorts to a “drug tripping” sequence, and I’m legitimately SHOCKED at how often I checked my watch during an endless scene of Ferrell engaging in slapstick with a jug of dinosaur urine.

There’s really no reason for anyone to go see this. A night at the movies for this will run you about 20 bucks, a night at home with some youtube clips of the show and a case of bear will cost a lot less and will give you EXACTLY the same effect.

Twilight: New Moon

“Twilight” was easily one of the passing years’ worst films, but it at least it’s offered the Movie Geek set something we haven’t had in awhile: A bona-fide mass-media punching bag. It’s such a completely awful film franchise – bad story, worse script, awful dialogue, bad acting, bad direction all bound up in the selling of a cringe-inducingly campy Harlequin love story. It’s like everything worth hating in modern film (hell, modern FICITON) all rolled into one entity and magnified. The only question was whether or not the REST of the series would continue being as much fun to slap around. Well, here’s the “New Moon” trailer…

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON trailer in HD,t=1,mt=video

…which reveals that this time around the world’s lamest execuses for Vampires will be challenged by the world’s lamest excuses for Werewolves.