Don’t Like: THE HANGOVER, only in the sense that I pretty much already saw every funny moment or comedic beat in the trailers and commercials

June 5, 2009

Say I walked into this movie without seeing a single trailer or commercial. I probably would have found it freaking hilarious. So often this is actually the way that critics see movies and it works distinctly to their benefit. But this always assumes that audiences go to see movies in a bubble. Nope. Everybody sees the commercials and they see the trailers. And all the of the advertising for THE HANGOVER has been rather funny. Heck, it got me to see the movie (though honestly I would have seen it cause I like Zach Galifianakis). So what happens when you go to see a movie and every funny part has been already seen in some form? It’s disappointing, that’s what. I feel like I was robbed of seeing the actual freakin movie.

What kind of makes it all the more remarkable is THE HANGOVER is throwing constant waves of funniness at you for the entire running time. And the trailer folks somehow freaking managed to cram a great 2 hour comedy into a 2 1/2 minute ad. Pretty remarkable.

So how does this happen? Easy. Focus groups. Studios are run by businessmen who think this practice is important. Hint: it’s not. It’s actually detrimental. But they do a focus group on a trailer and ask what the people what they would have liked to see more of in the trailer. This particular phrasing was recently a comment on mefi: “Men always answer: explosions and boobs. Women always say they wanted to see more of the story. That’s why trailers are usually filled with explosions and boobs and give away the whole story.”

God dammit that is frustrating. I could launch into a diatribe on the stupidity of moviegoers, but that seems a tad assumptive and snotty. Nope, the blame lies squarely with the focus group testers because there is a direct fundamental problem with the question itself. A trailer is supposed to make you WANT TO SEE MORE. That’s the entire conceit of the damn thing! No one really wants a encapsulated movie. They don’t and I stand by this.

Some people disagree. Matt Groening recently said on why some trailers spill all the good stuff is “smart things make people feel stupid and unexpected things make people feel scared.” Which is true to a degree, but isn’t that basically an acknowledgment of catering to the lowest common denominator? Why do we do this? To get lots of money? Yeah that’s the justification. But I don’t buy it. That amounts to nothing more than disgusting excuse. Look at the Apatow movies. Those trailers hardly EVER spoil the funniest and best parts. The new Bruno trailer leaves the best parts out and the old Borat trailer only showed the opening.  And all these movies are ridiculously successful, even with the “lowest common denominator” audiences.

So I don’t buy it. It’s an inane practice that has become nothing more then the safe, assumptive bet.

Luckily there are a few things in THE HANGOVER that allow you to get over the been-there-done-that-deja-vu of watching the actual movie. Most specifically, Zach Galifianakis finally getting the breakout roll he’s needed for years. He’s just absurdly good in this. You’ve already seen most of his good stuff, but he has a laundry list of throwaway lines and left field deliveries. My favorite of which being his pre-shots speech read-aloud. Classic stuff. I hope he becomes as huge as he should (and this guy has been toiling in the comedy scene for years).

Random notes:

-dear todd phillips: women are not evil and alternatively they don’t have to be vapid whores either. carry on.

-Ken Jeong. Nicely done. Secret weapon of the movie. Too bad your best moment was also ruined.

-Again Zach is just awesome.

-Ending picture montage practically saves the movie.

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