By Sandra Kraisirideja
Looking for laughs this weekend? Stick with “The Hangover” and pass “Land of the Lost,” which both open Friday.
“The Hangover” has been getting great word of mouth and the early buzz has been positive. It’s got deliciously funny dialogue delivered by a quartet of actors who know a thing or two about comedy.
The bro-comedy, directed by Todd Phillips (“Old School”) from a script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) follows the misadventures of three friends- recovering from an epic bachelor party in Las Vegas-as they search for the groom who has mysteriously disappeared.
The friends-Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), Stu Price (Ed Helms), Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug Billings (Justin Bartha)-all have different backgrounds and their friendship is the kind that has been forged over many years. The exception is Galifianakis’ character, Alan, who is the brother of the bride and somewhat of an idiot savant. His social awkwardness presents a great deal of laughs. Expect to see Galifianakis in many more movies if “The Hangover” exceeds box office predictions.
“The Hangover” is that rare movie that seems to get by Hollywood suits and number crunchers on its way to completion. It’s an R-rated comedy starring relatively unknown actors with a story that doesn’t involve robots, aliens, magical sorcerers or natural disasters. It’s a miracle this movie ever got made. Did I mention Heather Graham and Mike Tyson have supporting roles?
Unlike “Very Bad Things,” that other movie about a bachelor party in Vegas gone horribly wrong, “The Hangover” is not a black comedy. The mood is light and the relative danger never goes beyond a few bruises and bumps.
“The Hangover” is unique because its story starts the morning after the bachelor party. The audience witnesses the aftermath and follows the characters along as they try to sort out what happened to their friend. This is much funnier and entertaining then watching it all unfold. When the hotel valet pulls up to the boys with a cop car, the gag works because the audience has the same “WTF?!” thought that is expressed on the character’s faces. How does a person steal a police car? What were the events leading up to that?
The sordid details of that night are finally revealed to the audience–and the characters since nobody remembers what happened–during the end credits, when a slideshow of photos from a recovered digital camera are shown. The photos may bring back fond memories or horrible flashbacks for anyone who has ever had a wild weekend in Vegas.
Despite all of the antics and craziness in “The Hangover,” this movie is about male friendship. The kind that is nurtured and developed in ways women may never understand. If there is any subtext it may be that men who need to let out a little steam in Las Vegas always come home to their wives happy and thankful for what they have.
If there’s one negative about the movie it’s how these male-centric comedies always seem to feature one woman in the “bitch” role. She’s nagging, overbearing, controlling and easily provoked. In “The Hangover” this role belongs to Rachael Harris as Stu’s longtime girlfriend, Melissa. Even other women would find her behavior intolerable. Do women like this really exist? And if they did, would a guy have the courage to tell his friend that he’s dating Medusa?
On the low end of the laugh meter is “Land of the Lost,” starring Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel and Jorma Taccone. It’s loosely based on the TV series of the same name that aired from 1974-76. Where the TV series was a drama the movie is a flat-out comedy that borrows character names from the show and certain plot element, but that’s where the similarities end.
“Land of the Lost” is plagued with mediocre jokes and sight gags. The dialogue is juvenile and the few laughs that are generated quickly fade.