Monday, June 22, 2009

"What Does It Mean To Be Old-Fashioned?"

Take a blank piece of paper. Using a hole-punch, randomly punch an indeterminate number of holes in that paper. Let that piece of paper with the indeterminate number of holes in it represent your sense of humor. Or, more specifically, mine. The sense of humor of a person above a certain age, let’s say, over fifty.

Now, take that piece of paper with the indeterminate number of holes punched in it, and place it directly over another a piece of paper, whose indeterminate number of holes represent the sense of humor of a person who’s under thirty.

Look down at the pieces of paper, one piece of paper sitting directly over the other. What do you notice?

You notice that few to none of the holes on those two pieces of paper

match up.

That’s what it means to be old-fashioned.

The reason for this morning’s moaning? I went to see The Hangover. The Hangover, a surprise hit comedy – it’s projected to gross over two hundred million in domestic revenues – is scoring mightily with audiences, particularly with the dearly coveted younger demographic. People really seem to like The Hangover. And they’re recommending it enthusiastically to their friends.

After seeing it, I have no idea why.

I wanted to see what the fuss was about. If you’re a “comedy guy”, you want to know what’s going on. It had been a while since I’d had had any movies ideas of my own. Who knows? Maybe The Hangover would inspire me. Maybe my comic instincts would pick up on what they’re going for, and trigger some internal response like,

“I ‘get’ what they’re doing. And you know what? I think I could come up with something that’s very much along those lines.”

It didn’t happen.

Virtually nothing in The Hangover made me laugh. Once, near the beginning, a child-like (and by default the movie’s most appealing) character took off his pants, unexpectedly revealing some jockstrappy type underwear and casually exposing his pale, flabby butt. I cracked a smile at that. Turns out, that “butt moment” would be the highpoint of my enjoyment.

Time now for my “I’m not entirely out of it” disclaimer paragraph. I nearly fell out of my seat laughing watching the first South Park movie (in spite of their making horribly unfair fun of Canadians). I’m a fan of the Judd Apatow oeuvre, cracking up at substantial chunks of Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Though I’d be hard pressed to produce my own version of such movies, and though I wasn’t always crazy about the storytelling, I at least understood what they were going for. And sometimes, they surprised me, their finest moments totally exceeding my expectations.

By contrast, The Hangover seemed recycled, carelessly constructed and lame.

There’s a tiger in the bathroom.

The movie audience’s reaction.

Big laugh.

My reaction?

“That’s a nice-looking tiger.”

One of the leading characters discovers he’s missing a tooth.

The movie audience’s reaction?

Huge laugh.

My reaction?

“That looks like actual blood.”

The missing groom-to-be, whose disappearance propels the storyline, is finally found sitting on the roof of their hotel in a drugged-out stupor.

The movie audience’s reaction?

A palpable sense of relief.

My reaction?

“There’s nobody keeping him there. Why didn’t he just come down?”

And if you say, “Because he’s in a drugged-out stupor”, I’d say,

“The other guys took the same drugs. How come they recovered from them and he didn’t?”

I will not bore you with any more of my quibbles.

Except for the naked, Asian quasi-gangsterish gay guy whose high-pitched squealings generate not a single moment of hilarity.

And the pristine silver Mercedes you’re waiting to see get trashed, and when it finally is, the moment is neither surprising nor laugh inducing. (Nor is there any response from the Mercedes’ passionately possessive owner when they bring the messed-up car home.)

And the least memorable Vegas quickie wedding chapel scene0 I have ever seen in movies. Or TV.

And the dufus who suddenly morphs into a card-counting winner at the blackjack table.

And the teacher who absconds with his students’ field trip money with no consequences whatsoever.

And Mike Tyson showing up and being sweet but not at all humorous.

And an “out of the blue” black guy, and a good-hearted stripper, and a ball-busting fiancĂ©e whose portrayal is so excruciatingly over the top…

Did I mention the film was projected to gross over two hundred million dollars?

Is The Hangover malicious? No. Is it mean-spirited? No. Is it gross, crude or tasteless? I don’t care about that, but no, it isn’t particularly at all. It’s benign and it’s harmless.

And it’s not at all funny.

To me.

What am I missing? Why didn’t I get one laugh in the entire…however long it was, and it felt considerably longer? What exactly is my problem with this hot, new comedy sensation? The explanation is very simple.

My holes are in the wrong place.


Anonymous said...

I don't think even a drunken, doped up dentist would pull out one of his own teeth. I think I laughed three times at "The Hangover." For most of the movie, I was struck by how ordinary if not downright bad the lines were. Did somebody rent "Batchelor Party" from Netflix and try to rip it off? They could have used Neil Israel's help on the writing.

Jon88 said...

Just curious: How do you feel about "Caddyshack"?

Rebecca said...

Nope, wrong answer. I'm over 55 and laughed my ass off through the whole thing. As did my sister, who is also over 50. We called our kids as soon as we got out of the theater, on opening night, and told them to waste no time seeing it as it was the funniest movie we'd seen in forever. Non-stop laughter. And we agreed that the naked guy jumping out of the trunk was the funniest bit of all.

So it's not age. It's just each to his own. There have been many big box office movies that I have not been interested in seeing, and others which I did see, but was not impressed with in the least.

Oh, and we liked the movie so much, I went to the trouble of looking up what other projects the writers had done so that we could see them, as well, if we hadn't already. Turned out I'd seen 4 Christmases and didn't care for it at all. Had also seen Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and wasn't wild about that one either. So I'm not sure that there's actually an explanation. Maybe just one of those things that the public just inexplicably reacts to at any given moment.

Rinaldo said...

They carefully set up early on (and reiterate in the second scene) that the door to the roof locks on the inside; if you're stuck there, you can't open the door.

Jo said...

Now, I thought it was funny, but had a few problems.

Number one, this is Vegas. So the guy is carried up the stairs on his mattress to the roof. How did they get the guy and the mattress on the roof through a regular door.

The door locks when you close it, I get that. But again, this is Vegas, everything but the bathrooms have a security camera on it. No one saw these shenanigans? And even if they didn't, maintenance just takes a mattress off the roof, without investigating further.

And chapels can annull the weddings they preform? Did they do it that way for Britney Spears?

I don't mind wacky, but come on!

growingupartists said...

Earl, you have a metaphysical way of explaining your relationship to movies. Your rabbi should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Early, I have not seen "The Hangover" and probably will not as we have a baby and our movie nights are so rare that I would never piss one away on a movie like that. BUT, I would like to recommend a movie that you can Netflix that I think was very underrated when it was released 10 years ago. It's called "Funny Bones" and stars the British comedian Lee Evans and Oliver Platt... and yes, it is true that Jerry Lewis has a small part in it, but he is actually very good in it. But I think Lee Evans physical comedy might make you laugh a bit. Or I am totally wrong as I'm sure my holes don't line up with anyone else's either.
"Anonymous Brian"

growingupartists said...

Mornin' Earl. Yes, your oldness is showing!!! Where's my morning dose of hilarity and illogic?

Anonymous said...

Where's Earl? I'm worried. Hope everything's okay. (You're not going to come back and tell us you can't remember what happened to you the last several days, are you? Or that you were with Gov Sanford in Argentina?).

Claire said...

I've not yet seen "The Hangover" but had that reaction to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" -- just couldn't see the point of it at all... and I'm 30. Go figure.

growingupartists said...

So glad you're enjoying your Carribean vacation, don't drink the sunscreen.

A, Buck Short said...

Anonymous said...
Where's Earl? I'm worried. Hope everything's okay. (You're not going to come back and tell us you can't remember what happened to you the last several days, are you? Or that you were with Gov Sanford in Argentina.

Well, ya beat me to it…

Now we know what those Appalachian Indian Trail Tree markers are for. They point to all the places Governor Sanford is NOT while he’s off shtumping that woman in Argentina. "Buenos Aires? I thought they said Mount Airy?"

But I'll take those stimulus pampas.

Don’t cry for me Appalachia,
The truth is I never left you.
OK, I left for one week,
But it was only to Argentina.
I broke my promise,
And kept my distance.
- Andrew Lloyd Sanford