Last year there was also a weekend, perhaps even the same one (the one falling around Memorial Day), when I honestly couldn't justify spending the money or even the effort to go out and see the weekend's new "main attractions" and yet feel obligated, again like last year, to write something (and _not_ altogether negatively) about them ;-)
MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (L) RE.com (1 1/2 Stars) AVClub (C)
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
RogerEbert.com (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
The Hangover Part III  (directed and screenplay cowritten by Todd Phillips along with Craig Mazin, characters by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) is the third installment in the franchise about a group of "regular guys" (if they weren't sooooo.... stupid) 30s-ish in age, generally vulgar/immature-ish in attitude from Southern California who by this installment have come to call themselves "the wolf pack." Playing the four are Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and Zach Galifianis.
The shtick in the series is that these four find themselves falling into some truly unbelievable situations (in good part due to their stupidity) and then have to struggle to find their way out. The formula has been wildly popular.
I saw the first film when it came out in 2009 (back before I began my blog) and found it to be basically funny/stupid (stupid-funny...) and already _somewhat_ "immature" (basically along the lines of Animal House  but for 30 year olds ...). What honestly surprised me was the film's remarkable popularity in my parish. It seemed to me that just about everyone across all our various ethnic lines from (honestly) pre-teenagers to seniors (! ;-) had seen the film (often as families) and almost everyone of them talked about the film as if it was the greatest thing to come out in a long-long time. When a film that, let's face it, is kinda/rather vulgar -- "Honestly, you took your kids to see this?" "Yes, (with all sincerity) why not Father?" "Did you see the final credits?" "Yup, what of them?" ;-) -- is THAT popular, someone like me CAN'T HELP BUT NOTICE and then scratch my head and try to figure-out "why?" What is it about these films that makes them so popular?
The answer that I came up with is that these film "work" because they portray "regular people" behaving stupider indeed MUCH stupider than we generally do. Hence we laugh at the nerdy / generally straight-laced dentist (played by Ed Helms) getting SOOOOOO DRUNK in the first film that during the course of the evening he pulled out his own front tooth (with a pair of pliers...) without having ANY recollection the next day of him doing so. (How drunk would you have to be to do that and then not remember doing so? ;-) In the trailer to the current film, we see the stupidest of the characters (played by Zach Galifianis) happily speeding along on the freeway, driving home a giraffe that he had bought from a carnival somewhere ... only to "accidently" knock its head-off as he drove his car/trailer under a bridge (How stupid would you have to be to do that? ;-) ;-) -- It is funny ;-) -- just really, really, really stupid funny ;-)
One can't help but laugh at both of these gags and there are plenty of others just like them in the films. Indeed, my favorite gag in the first movie was when the characters in the story get into trouble with the police for having _stolen a police car_ the previous night (Again how impossibly drunk would you have to be to not remember stealing a police car? ;-) After much talking/apologizing and noting that actually "no harm was done," the police allow them to go free if they did them "a favor." What was the favor? The police had a class of grade-school kids at the Police Station on a field trip and the cops thought it kinda cool to taser the three of them in front of the class as part of a demonstration! ;-) My gosh, as a 10 year old, I would have found THAT DEMO to be WAY WAY COOL ;-) And even now, I can't stop laughing just thinking about it ;-).
So as crude as the Hangover films have been, they've honestly been very, very funny showing "regular people" doing unbelievably stupid things. It allows one say: "I may have done some pretty stupid things in my life, but at least I've never done anything that stupid." And since all of us find ourselves having done some really, really stupid things in the course of our lives, being reminded that we could still have been stupider can be a relief ;-)
MPAA (PG-13) RE.com (2 Stars) AVClub (B)
RE.com (S. Boone) review
Fast and Furious 6  (directed by Justin Lin, screenplay by Chris Morgan, characters by Gary Scott Thompson) is the other blockbuster film released this weekend that I nonetheless couldn't get myself to spend the money or effort to see. However, like the latest Hangover installment that I discussed above, my inability to get up and go see the film does not mean that it is necessarily bad. Indeed, the whole Fast and Furious franchise is "geared" ;-) torward teens and perhaps even pre-teens and is a celebration of raw, thundering, leave half the tires on the pavement behind you, wheel screeching/supercharged POWER. (And that in itself is not necessarily bad, as a celebration of POWER can be actually a celebration of BEING ALIVE, of having THE POWER TO ACT).
And I get why that would be attractive to teenagers/young adults really of both sexes. For guys there's something really really cool to be driving a thundering, smoke/fire breathing MONSTER that's already SHAKING IN IDLE let alone when one puts it in gear. After all, ballads were written not for MEN who slew "wombats or weasels" but for MEN who slew Bears, Lions and DRAGONS. No one gains esteem for "taming a chevette." Yet BRONCO BUSTING and even MECHANICAL "BULL RIDING" with the attendant chaos / danger can be positively inspirational.
Similarly one can smirk at some of the somewhat sexist imagery in these films -- the Chicago Tribune's critic for this film noted that Warner Brothers must have gone through its entire annual budget for "tank tops" in the making of the film ;-) and I understand that criticism as well. Yet to be kinder and perhaps to understand better what's going on, women are generally more responsible than men _anyway_. So there's not necessarily a great deal of attractiveness for a young woman to find a similarly (or even more) responsible guy. Yet the guy who knows how to TAME / CONTROL POWER can be _very attractive_. So that there would be young women, perhaps a bit more scantily ("attractively") dressed than the average, congregating around events involving men showing-off their skills at taming thundering, fire-breathing mechanical monstrosities actually makes some real primal sense.
And then add a few women who decide to give it a try at TAMING / CONTROLLING these monstrocities as well, HOW COOL IS THAT? ;-). For guys watching this, it's akin to "allowing their Jungian animas out to play" and for women doing this, it's their embracing of their own "inner superhero" (Jungian "animus").
So this then would be the set-up for the films of the Fast and Furious franchise and it makes a lot of sense. And if the plots are kinda flimsy -- in the case of the current film featuring among other things a high speed chase on a freeway WITH A TANK and the bringing down a MILITARY TRANSPORT PLANE taking off on a runway with only a "really fast" indeed super-charged vehicle armed with HARPOONS ;-) -- then let's remember that plot here is really beside the point ;-).
So I get the attraction, but at almost 50, I honestly just can't get myself out to see this one ;-). But power-on folks, power-on ;-)
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