by Steve Habrat
I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there: I really disliked The Hangover. There. I said it. I’ve given the film three go-arounds and I couldn’t even force myself to enjoy it. Criticize me all you want, tell me I lack credibility, I’m striving to be different, whatever. The first Hangover movie sucked. It wasn’t funny, fresh, new, or as charismatic as it was convinced it was. It tried way too hard when half the jokes didn’t land. I found it astonishing that people actually said it was such an original concept. Really? Have you ever heard of a movie called Dude, Where’s My Car? Thought so. None of the characters were likable or relatable in any way and don’t even get me started about Bradley Cooper’s Phil or Zach Galifianakis’ Alan. The fact that misguided audiences stood behind them with such ferocity left me speechless. The original film only offered up a handful of genuine chuckles and yes, I do mean chuckles. Oh, and the joke “Paging Dr. Douche Bag”? Not funny.
Well, to everyone who enjoyed the first round of debauchery can give a humongous bro cry of joy and slap your buddy a high five. The Wolfpack is back and even worse than before. The first film was very average at best. It never seemed to live up to it’s full potential and really drive it’s characters to the brink of madness like it should have. This time around, director Todd Phillips pushes the revulsion to eleven and makes an excruciating film that once again only manages to elicit minor (and I do mean MINOR) chuckles and disgusted groans from it’s desensitized audience. Through the coarse of it’s 100 minute run time, The Hangover Part II relentlessly attempts to convince you that it’s really really funny. This should not be mistaken for it actually being funny because it basically isn’t. It’s just horrific and misguided.
For anyone who actually likes these characters should consider signing themselves up for a psychiatric evaluation. They are not funny, not cool, not people I would ever want to hang out with in real life, not sympathetic, and certain not the heroes people have built them up to be. They are douche bags and nothing more. Take Alan for example. What makes this oafish man-child who has a fascination with The Jonas Brothers the stuff of cinematic legend. He spouts off random humor that apparently is meant to shock and awe the audience when really he’s just an obnoxious dweeb. Or Phil? Phil is a hateful character who on the surface is supposed to be the cool, calm, and collected one. Is it wrong that I wish the worst actions be done on to him? He’s egotistical and coarse. Perhaps that was Phillip’s intention to make us dislike them, but the American public seems to melt over their every word. My hope is that this movie will bring them out of their trance.
The Hangover Part II is literally the same movie in a different location. It shamelessly goes through the motions while grinning at itself. It’s convinced it’s great and it prays that you don’t wake up to its true motive, which is to rob you of another ten bucks. But back to the so-called plot. The douchepack is heading to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Stu, played by the infinitely talented Ed Helms, is basically the only likable character partly because of his reactions to the situations they find themselves in. He’s aghast and seething with anger when he learns of his past actions, which is realistic due to some of the danger that follows them around. But Helms, who is the only talented person attached to this turd, also makes him slightly genuine and sensitive. Once in Thailand, the Wolfpack, along with Stu’s future fifteen-year-old brother-in-law turn a night of one beer on the beach into another drunken romp through the seedy city of Bangkok. This time, they join forces with the shrill Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong, who seems to be funny in literally everything else but this. What follows is a barrage of riots, transgender sex, drug dealing monkeys, car chases, gun shot wounds, severed fingers, American gangsters, and a character missing in action. And let me tell you, folks, it is painful to endure.
The characters that were one note to begin with do not grow or reveal any depth. They are stretched paper-thin and some of them actually snap right in front of our eyes. This is especially true with breaded Alan, who makes one idiotic comment after another. But if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Phil never even attempts to redeem himself and make us actually like him. Only Stu manages to hold our interest and make us wonder if he will make it back to his wedding in one piece. Mr. Chow is still a character that should have been left on the cutting room floor. A perpetually nude bisexual “gangsta” who makes countless racist comments and cuts Alan down every chance he gets while Alan laughs right along. Maybe Phillips is comparing the relationship between Mr. Chow and Alan to the way audiences howl at the lazy jokes that provide the foundation of these films? One can only wonder.
Even worse, the film lacks a coherent plotline and major conflict. The film really only makes it’s characters aware of a threat in final half hour of the film. The rest is just a horror show of outrageous deprived behavior. The film’s tone is so indecipherable at points that I can’t tell if it was trying to be exploitative or maneuver into the dark comedy realm. It’s dazed with no clear direction just like it’s protagonists. My only hope is that audiences realize that the same joke told two times in a row is not funny especially if joke was unoriginal and unfunny in the first place. A deplorable and careless sequel.
The Hangover Part II is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
by Steve Habrat
As you exit the theater after viewing Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there should be theater employees stationed by the door that snap a picture of you and toss you a t-shirt that reads, “I survived Transformers: Dark of the Moon!” I kid you not that when the theater lights come up, the gleaming credits roll across the screen, and Linkin Park blares down on you from the theater speaker system that you will need to take a minute to compose yourself. Your brain will be reduced the pancake batter, your ears will ring, your bones will ache, and you may suffer from a pounding migraine headache as your try to decipher what it is that you just saw. The truth is that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is infinitely better than the previous installment in the Hasbro toy franchise, but the bottom line is that the film, which hints at an intriguing concept early on, single handedly creates a new subgenre of action film: Explosion porn. In the last hour of this film, I’m absolutely astounded that you could not hear Bay’s maniacal laughter as he reduces Chicago to a pile of smoldering embers, reduces the premise to ash, and leaves you reeking of gasoline and defeat.
Almost everyone I talk to about the Transformers films seem to agree that the first film was a charming action film about a boy and his car. About an eccentric kid grappling with problems most teenage boys face (girls, popularity, money, ennui in suburbia) getting thrust into something that is larger than life. Then came the second film and the awe factor was reduced to racist rubble at the pyromaniac claws of Michael Bay. The first film was clearly overseen by Spielberg, who is the executive producer of these films; because Bay demonstrated some disciplined restraint and didn’t blow up EVERYTHING he pointed his camera at. The second film was an incomprehensible mess that was nothing but one confusing fight sequence after another. Furthermore, halfway through the film, it seemed like the writers realized the storyline was rancid and tried to redirect the entire film. Bad idea.
So how does the third entry in this lucrative franchise fair? Well, it manages to be pretty average in the story department. It has a beefier plot than the previous film but the film is so garish and cramped that it almost bursts on screen. The plot wears thin after the first hour and a half and the film spends the next hour using an epic showdown in downtown Chicago as a dazzling diversion to the fact that the storyline has run out of fuel. The film begins with a nifty prelude that suggests that the space race of the 1960s was in response to a ship that had crash-landed on the dark side of the moon. Turns out that the ship actually belonged to Sentinel Prime, an Autobot that fled the planet of Cybertron during the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. He took with him a precious weapon that would have decided the outcome of the war. Flash forward to present day and the Decepticons are lurking on earth and looking for the weapon to launch a massive campaign against Earth and wipe out the remaining Autobots.
Back at the center of all the action is the bumbling hero Sam Witwicky (Played by motor-mouthed Shia LaBeouf). Once Sam was a lovable hero who just wanted to get the girl. Now, he’s been reduced to a shadow of his once beloved character. He’s set up shop with Carly (Played by Bay’s curvy Babe-of-the-Month Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) in what appears to be a left over set of a Victoria ‘s Secret commercial. The two can’t even come close to emulating the bizarre chemistry that LaBeouf had with Megan Fox in the first two installments. They seem like the most improbable couple on the face of the earth. The rest of the cast is back too and they are all as colorful as ever. We have the tough-as-nails army officers Epps (Played by Tyrese Gibson), and Lennox (Played by Josh Duhamel) back on the front lines of the alien/robot battle. Also back is Sam’s TMI-spouting parents and the eccentric former Sector 7 agent Simmons (Played with berserk delight by John Turturro). Newcomers include John Malkovich as Sam’s unhinged new boss, Ken Jeong as Sam’s jittery coworker, Frances McDormand as an icy government agent, and Patrick Dempsey as a charismatic boss.
It truly is enigmatic how Bay convinced some of the talent to actually agree to be in this beast of a movie. They must have all been desperate for a payday because I can’t imagine stars like Malkovich and McDormand actually biting at this tomfoolery. They do the best job they can with the material they are given. Let’s not forget that some of the dialogue has never been some of the sharpest banter ever projected onto the silver screen but it is given some life by these accomplished actors. Yet somehow all these characters are the reason that these films astonishingly stay afloat. Granted the second film may be one of the vilest movies of recent memory, but you have to admit that it had spunk. The characters are effervescent and so are their alien allies even if tired clichés pour from their CGI mouths.
While many are swift to accuse Bay of producing empty cinematic experiences, they are correct to an extent. Bay does action well and he can frame a scene better than most directors out there, but the problem with Bay is that he sabotages his own film’s potential. This film has plenty of said potential and the first twenty minutes of it are expertly constructed. He weaves history and fiction together just as effortlessly as they did in X-Men: First Class. But then Bay can’t resist himself and pulls the pin out of the grenade. He does this with a single shot that throws off the momentum that the film has been gathering—a shot of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s ass as it sways up a set of stairs. It sucks the life right out of the film and for the next hour, the film scrambles to gather back that momentum. It doesn’t help that the premise here is stretched to the breaking point, snaps, and then continues on for another hour. I believe that the first film worked so well because we knew so little about these alien visitors. Now, the films have been steeped in geek lore and suffer from being completely overblown. Everything is given a longwinded explanation that drags the events on another ten minutes. This entry keeps it a bit simpler but I still firmly believe the franchise should have been left at one. Shame on Hollywood’s gluttony.
Overall, Bay has become a target for another crime against his audience—making them feel no emotion whatsoever. His films are more concerned with the action sequences than any redeeming quality like emotion. Yes, a film should send you away with a feeling. That can include walking away sad, overjoyed, depressed, moved, or, yes, thrilled to your core. While the last entry sent you away confused and simply infuriated that it exists, Transformers: Dark of the Moon sends you away overwhelmed and disoriented. You will feel like you just stepped off of a rollercoaster. I guarantee that your stomach will be doing somersaults for hours after in your gut. We can spend all day arguing over the mediocrity of his latest film, or we can just agree on the obvious: At least Bay sent you away FEELING something this time around. Grade: C+
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is available on Blu-ray and DVD Friday.