Hangover 2: You had to be there

September 10, 2011

Don't Drink and Jerk

Last weekend I got hammered with my friends Tibbs (also known as Turbo for some reason), Derek, Melissa, Kael, Eric, Brandon, my girlfriend, and some chick I didn't know. We played a drinking game I invented, and then out of nowhere, suddenly Tibbs is bleeding all over the place. Apparently Eric tried to pull Tibbssess knife from his pocket and that somehow resulted in a cut on the thumb and on the wrist. We were just about to go to the bars, and Tibbs wasn't about to not go out, so we duct taped the shit out of his cuts and were off to the clubs! Where we almost got in a fight. It was awesome.

Don't give a shit? Yeah, cause it's a story that's only cool if you were actually there to witness it (and were also drunk). "You had to be there" stories lead to some of the worst moments in your life. Whenever you go to a party, there's always some guy named Walter or Matt or Jake, some boring name to go with his boring life, and he's going to corner you and tell you this story about his crazy friend Tim who you've never met, and how Tim did the craziest thing this one time when they were in San Diego, but were so drunk they thought they were actually in Tijuana. You...had to be there.

I'm talking about YHTBT stories for a reason. And that reason is to dissect a film that came out a while ago for no apparent reason.

Three Men and a Plot Twist
The Hangover worked for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that it paired the mystery plot structure with the stupid high concept comedy. It's a mystery with clues and twists and surprises, but it's also funny most of the way through. This is why I love writing comedies. In most dramas, there's only really one thing going on at a time. Watch any Hugh Grant movie and you'll see how little is going on. Boy meets girl. They flirt and stuff, and then they don't hook up for a while for some reason, then they do hookup and the music swells, and then they kinda breakup for some reason, and then they end up together probably, cue music. Comedies have to do all the things that a mystery, or a suspense thriller, or a chick flick does, but they also have to be funny, which ain't nothing to sneeze at.

Does Bruce Willis Look Like a Bitch?
If you can think of a way to match the mystery plot with high concept comedy, you can have a million dollar idea. A script that just recently sold for 1.2 mill is called "Sex Tape." It's about a regular couple who have a crazy night of sex and when they wake up the sex tape they made is gone! TV Networks love the shit out of cop shows because each week they can have a new serial rapist to catch. But in ordinary life, something that a comedy can work with, mysteries revolve around shit like "Dude, where's my car?" or "What the fuck happened last night." Those are both really the same thing. DWMC? matched the mystery plot with the comedy, but that movie sucked a dick because it was a fucking retarded stoner movie. (And then like hot Alien Chicks should show up!)

The Inept Sperm Dance
So what else can we match the mystery plot with? "Shit, who's the daddy?" Has been done, Jerry Springer and Maury Pauvich have built mansions based on that slut shaming enterprise. That subplot has been used frequently on TV to give female characters something to do. Another version is the, "Who is the sperm donor?" plot, which has also been done. So where's the next Hangover? What other real life mysteries do we face? Or perhaps it's going to be the pairing of a different plot to the high concept comedy (Gone In 60 Seconds meets 40 Year Old Virgin. "What's more fun? Having sex, or stealing cars?" In fact, I'm going to rewatch that movie and pretend it's really about Nicholas Cage trying to finally have sex...with the unicorn?)

The OTHER reason The Hangover worked was because you felt like you were one of the guys. Who can't imagine going with their close friends to Vegas for a great bachelor party? So the movie puts you in the moment, with these guys just like it's you and your friends getting into whacky shananigans. There's surprises and crazy shit and the goal is clear and simple. We need to find our friend, who's getting married. It's a crazy party story and you're there actually experiencing it.

Then my friend was all like...

The Hangover 2 is a really good movie because it feels like you're right there with your friends going through this. I mean, who hasn't gotten stoned in Thailand and misplaced their friend's fiance's little brother? Oh right, that's never happened ever. The Hangover 2 doesn't work for the same reason the first one does. The Hangover 2 is a movie that should really end with the Director coming on screen over the credits, putting his head down and saying "I guess you had to be there."

The big differences between the two films really comes down to believability. The first one is believable enough that when something crazy happens, it's like one of your friends suddenly getting a beat down from a naked chinese dude. In the second one, I'm not buying it, it draws too much attention to the fact that it's not just a movie but a sequel. When whacky things happen to whacky characters in a whacky movie...well so what? So when people say that the second one sucked because it was too much like the first one, they're part right. The first one was good, so why would it be such a sin to be similar? Well, the answer is that drawing attention to the artifice of it completely undermines the main reason the first one worked. So instead of being there and experiencing it, the second one is a whacky YHTBT story.

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