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June 5, 2009


Reviews of The Hangover

The Hangover

So The Hangover looks pretty hilarious. The Times did a sweetly admiring profile of director Todd Phillips last week (in which he quotes Mike Tyson during the shoot as saying, bizarrely, "Oh, man, this is great. I’m getting taught to punch by the captain of the Jewish debating team.") And the cast is great.

So I was surprised to see A.O. Scott's review in the Times, which is so dripping with contempt for the movie's adoration of its man-child characters and barely concealed sexism that, as my friend T-Rock said, you have to check to make sure it wasn't written by Manohla Dargis. He acknowledges that the movie is funny, but says that you'll probably end up feeling bad about yourself if you laugh, because of all the immature jokes and racism and sexism. It's funny, but it's wrong.

But Roger Ebert's review? Three and a half stars!

Here's what I love about Roger Ebert: he would never criticize a horror movie just for being too violent. He would never criticize a romantic movie just for being too sentimental. And he would never criticize a movie about a bunch of doofusy guys having a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas just for being too ridiculous and immature. From his review:

Now this is what I'm talkin' about. The Hangover is a funny movie, flat out, all the way through. Its setup is funny. Every situation is funny. Most of the dialogue is funny almost line by line. At some point we actually find ourselves caring a little about what happened to the missing bridegroom -- and the fact that we almost care is funny, too.

Here is a movie that deserves every letter of its R rating. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, especially after you throw up.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Either Roger Ebert is secretly a sexist fratty jerk or for once he's a little bit savvier about how genre movies work than A.O. Scott.

UPDATE: I saw the movie. It was very immature and ridiculous, and I laughed a lot (though maybe not quite as much as Roger Ebert did) and didn't feel wrong or like a bad person about it. Also, the director totally used the same inappropriate song at a formal event joke as he did in Starsky & Hutch, where the band at a girl's bat mitzvah played "Feel Like Makin' Love".

Yeah, the characters are man-children, and they follow completely predictable development arcs where the wimpy one grows a pair, the jackassy one gets a little bit nicer, and the weird one with no pants sort of gets his act together (but still doesn't have any pants.) The women are one-dimensional fantasy plot devices, but not any more so than most male characters are in ridiculous movies for women like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or The Holiday.

For what it is, The Hangover is good. And it looks like the public is on Ebert's side: even sort of late on a Sunday night, the theater was full, and those people ate every infantile joke up.

(Tx Stef!)

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 12:53 PM | #

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"Here's what I love about Roger Ebert: he would never criticize a horror movie for being too violent."

His dismisal of "I Spit on Your Grave," is, I believe, the most (in)famous review he has ever penned:


Posted by: Chad at June 5, 2009 6:38 PM

I see what you mean. But I think Ebert actually addresses this issue within the review for I Spit on Your Grave:

"Because it is made artlessly, it flaunts its motives: There is no reason to see this movie except to be entertained by the sight of sadism and suffering. As a critic, I have never condemned the use of violence in films if I felt the filmmakers had an artistic reason for employing it. "I Spit on Your Grave" does not."

He thinks this movie is bad because it's a bad movie, not because it's violent.

Posted by: amy at June 5, 2009 8:48 PM

Oh yeah---this has always been one of the great things about Ebert. It's part of what made him such a solid early champion of horror flicks like Evil Dead; he's very good about taking movies on their own terms. On the other hand, he's also often way too forgiving of crappy movies, so grain of salt and all.

As for Scott---perhaps he's still feeling the burn after he's glorious evisceration of Away We Go.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastarrd at June 7, 2009 4:27 PM

Hunh---now that I've read the Scott review, it doesn't seem that bad. Definitely sort of irritated by the movie's man-children, but I would think any working critic would find themselves fairly fed up with the whole archetype and happy to have a chance to unload on it. His point seems to be that it's a funny movie, but dumb, and built on ideas that are no less pathetic for being conventional, which seems fair enough.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastarrd at June 7, 2009 4:31 PM

Oh yeah, I think the Scott review is hilarious and smart--he's really been tearing through the mediocre movies out there these days. And I can bet he's sick to death of the man-child comedies that keep showing up over and over again.

But he seems to have written this review from some moral highground with a scolding preachy attitude that I don't think this movie deserves, at least not any more than a movie like Knocked Up.

In his review for that movie, he points out all the same kinds of cliches and broad caricatures, but forgives them all and calls it "an instant classic."


Maybe A.O. Scott and I just disagree about these movies.

Posted by: amy at June 7, 2009 11:52 PM

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