Tuesday, 9 November 2010
"The Hangover" was something of a surprise hit last year, raking in dough and making stars out of its then B-list cast. Now, director Todd Phillips and beardy weirdy unpronounceable Zach Galifianakis return to our screens, with the help of one Robert Downey Jnr, for a similarly pitched comedy of escalating exasperation and silliness.
RDJ plays Peter, a grumpy architect trying to get home from a business trip before the imminent birth of his first child. Galifianakis is Ethan, the beardy weirdy bane of his life. Within five minutes of meeting, Ethan gets Peter shot and banned from flying home so, of course, they end up in a rental car together, driving cross-country before you can say "Planes, Trains and Automobiles".
This is a very familiar and contrived set-up, but that shouldn't matter as long as the laughs are there, and they mostly are. Now, personally, I didn't see what the fuss was over "The Hangover". It was funny, sure, but more due to the performers and the dialogue than the episodic silly set-piece based structure. This is the case again here.
It's no secret that I have a complicated man-crush on RDJ, and he is immensely watchable as an unusually bitter and vicious character, prone to obnoxious outbursts and random acts of violence. He spits on a dog, he punches a child and, for a fan of "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", it's good to hear him swearing again.
Galifianikis carries on where Alan left off in "The Hangover", another bumbling, ignorant man-child who means well but causes chaos via sheer stupidity. He's funny, but the wacky beardo shtick may be in danger of wearing thin already. And this has nothing to do with the fact that people say I look like him. Nothing at all.
The combination of these characters may prove a difficult one for some audiences. Extremely flawed as they both are, it could be argued that there is no one to root for onscreen, but I found the film engaging enough on its own terms as a catalogue of errors made by a pair of idiots who don't know how stupid they are.
The plot cycles through a number of contrived mishaps as our "heroes" grow to like each other intermittently, but there are few real standout moments aside from some choice banter and RDJ's ever-increasing exasperation at Galifianakis' hairy space-cadet.
There are hints of plot development,but most are left hanging or resolved without event, leaving us with lots of musical driving montages and that old feeling of familiarity mixed with the suspicion that many scenes have been trimmed in the edit to streamline the pace. Phillips is content to simply punctuate the film with digressive guest stars such as Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis and the RZA whenever things get dull.
So, like "The Hangover", it's a broad, simple, and fairly predictable comedy buoyed by strong performances from its leads, but with a few added moments of pathos due to Ethan's grief over the loss of his father, who accompanies them on their journey in the form of a coffee tin full of ashes. Bet you can't guess what happens to that.
And another thing for fans of KKBB, the pregnant wife waiting for Peter in Los Angeles is played by Michelle Monaghan. Her appearance is little more than a cameo, but its the closest thing we're gonna get to seeing Harry and Harmony together again, so it is to be treasured.