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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Hungover

Sometimes coming home ain't all it's cracked up to be. While in London, I had visions of returning to graffiti filled subway cars, three-card monte hustlers set up on sidewalks, and spending late summer nights in checkered cabs racing through rain slicked streets. For some reason, the rest of the world views New York City as it was in the 1970's and 80's, home to the bohemian lifestyle that created Hip-Hop and Pop Art. Living in England the past 18 months, I started to romanticize my hometown as the rough and tumble metropolis that nurtured my artistic personality, a concrete womb as opposed to jungle. But being back here, I was greeted by a very different NYC, a place that felt more like Chicago, or Cincinnati, maybe even Indianapolis, some other American collection of highways and byways. Maybe it's a case of the recession blues, or just getting older, but my hometown has changed, and I'm not sure if it's for the better...

My realization started about a week after being back. While standing on the corner of Lafayette and Houston, some shirtless guy with nose paint and tightly wound abs gestured for me to follow him into a darkened room. This wasn't a homeless ne'er-do-well trying to include me on a score, but rather an over eager Hollister employee hoping I'd buy some redesign of Jams (I still have a pair from 1991 somewhere). I'd never heard of Hollister till that moment, but from the people streaming in and out of this black-lit cave, you'd think it was the latest nightlife hotspot, not a clothing store. What this Ambercrombie & Fitch spin-off was doing in the heart of downtown NYC was truly baffling. When I left America, The Gap was everywhere, but it certainly wasn't the place to be

The next shock to the system came when I went to see a movie called The Hangover. Zack Galifianakis, one of the stars of the film, has been a cult comic hero here for sometime. With this role he'd finally broken into the mainstream, a John Belushi for a new generation. I'd seen him on Conan O'Brian recently and he was hilarious. Conan threw out that The Hangover was the most successful R-rated comedy of all time, a factoid making me all the more excited. The next day I settled down in a midtown multiplex with a tub of Popcorn, ready to laugh my ass off. What commenced was one of the most dislikable 100 minutes of my movie watching career, a mindless rehashing of every Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller vehicle without a charismatic lead to pull it off, not to mention a second grade plot revealed entirely in the trailer (why watch a movie when the whole thing is in the preview, right?) By far the most infuriating, soul-sapping part of this movie, was the Alpha male portrayed by Bradley Cooper.

Here we have, Phil Wenneck, your stereotypical party-hearty everyman (who looks surprisingly like the guy outside Hollister) getting trashed on roofies at a bachelor party the night before, stumbling round Vegas the day after, reacting completely unbelievably to the completely unbelievable situations he and his buddies have goten themselves into, flashing a too-white smile and perfect six pack at every possible moment. To quote Jonah Hill in Apatow's new flick, Funny People (good movie, little long though) - There's nothing funny about a guy who's in shape. All the while, Phil keeps his frat boy cool with all the "crazy" shit that's going on. He's the only character in the movie without any human flaws, and the only one who has nothing seriously bad happen to him (outside of a hospital visit we never find out the cause of). And we're supposed to believe this guy is married with two kids and a SCHOOLTEACHER! Worst of all, whenever he tries to convey anything humorous, he screams at the top of his lungs. For the record, yelling does not make something funny.

I'm sure those of you reading this are thinking: calm down JV, it's just a movie... but it's not just a movie. It's the MOST SUCCESSFUL R-RATED COMEDY OF ALL TIME. To give you an idea of how preposterous this is, here's a list of some of the other successful R-rated comedies of all time, all of which in my opinion, are in a different league of originality, and more importantly, funny:

Beverly Hills Cop
Borat
There's Something About Mary
Knocked Up
National Lampoon's Animal House
Wedding Crashers
Pretty Woman

My problem is this movie is a reflection of the values of the modern American male youth, hence it's overwhelming success. It's every American guy's fantasy - get wasted in vegas, win a lot of money, and marry a stripper who looks like Heather Graham. Phil Wenneck is every guy I ever hated growing up at school, at camp, even the playground. And today he's the guy every guy want to be. When I was a kid, the coolest guys were Michael Jackson and Pee-Wee Herman. They were cool because they were different. They were freaks! They didn't look like male models and they could do strange things like moonwalk and talk to animals. Even back in the day, teen idols possessed a rebellious streak (Marlon Brando, James Dean, Elvis, Steve McQueen, John Travolta, even the Dukes of Hazard were running from Boss Hog). There is nothing rebellious in the slightest about Phil Wenneck. He never goes against the grain. He behaves hedonistically without regard to his friends and is rewarded with the time of his life. He's the slapstick comedy version of John Mayer - a smirking, vanilla faced everyman who is famous and we're not quite sure why...

So in short, please don't go see The Hangover. Pixar's Up is a more rewarding alternative. The hero is a 70-year-old hopeless romantic who flies his house to South America with balloons, discovers an extinct bird and fights talking dogs that fly 1920's style fighter planes. In my opinion, that is so much cooler than stealing Mike Tyson's tiger and getting away with it.

1 comment:

Matt said...

JV
That sounds as entertaining as a Josh Groban Christmas concert. I have had the same thoughts about 10 or so movies in the last decade!
keep up the critiquing, you do it splendidly
Beres