Thursday, February 11, 2010

The People's Choice

The old joke goes, "I saw the play under adverse circumstances. The curtain was up." I saw The Hangover (2009) in adverse circumstances, at home with just my wife and myself. It is clearly an audience film. It certainly does not boast an original or striking premise, nor does it introduce interesting new performers, at least not to anyone who follows comedy in the US today. In fact, I was disappointed at how Zack Galifiankis's creative brilliance was utterly and completely stifled in the monochromatic character he was given to play. The "bad bachelor party", "wild weekend" and "crazy time in Vegas" genre is surely close to being mined out.

What should make a film based on a tired idea like this one work is either the originality of its expression (not here) or the charm of the participants. I am told by people who know that Bradley Cooper (who functions as the lead in this film--at least he is the instigator of most of the complications of the story) is a famous person who is liked by audiences. I found him to have the warmth and charisma of a cyborg. An especially dull, anonymous cyborg. He is the Bill Paxton of comedy--that is, an actor so lacking in any unique quality, that you can't remember what he looks or sounds like--WHILE YOU ARE WATCHING HIM. He has no fuzzy or crinkly edges to stick to your brain. I kept thinking he was the stupid younger brother of the Fiennes, who had been locked in a closet in America at a young age while Raif and Joe were going to acting school.

Of the leads, only Ed Helms's character's story was of interest--again, not original, but had some recognizable human sentiment. At the end of the story, this man has shed an unsuitable life (always an enjoyable story trope) and has decided to woo and court his wife, played by Heather Graham, always so brilliant at making people with low morals and low brain capacity sweet and adorable.

People really liked this movie--even talked it up for the 10th Best Picture nomination, but I got no more than sporadic laughs from it. Not my fault, not the film's--but it will be interesting to see, as the world of home video continues to develop--how long audience films like this retain their lustre, compared to the quieter pleasures of, say, the long-underrated, now cult object Office Space.

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