If box-office numbers and imdb message boards are to be believed, no one likes a poor little PC pussy coming in to rain on the parade. Well, sorry to break up the high-fiving, ass-slapping, “get over it, dude, it’s only a comedy” raunch-party taking this country by “surprise” storm called The Hangover, but it can only be some sort of sick joke on Warner Bros’ part that it got released, and has become the hot-ticket item, during Gay Pride month. Only four weeks till Brüno, but we have enough questionably homophobic comedy here to tide us over.
So how does this “sleeper hit” (that this market-tested studio comedy that plays into all possible stereotypes is considered a “sleeper” is funnier than anything actually in the movie) choose to begin? First laff line: Overheard voicemail of one of the four bachelor-party-in-Vegas-bound protagonists says, “Leave me a message. But don’t text me, it’s gay.” Especially funny since I believe that is the recorded message of Doug [edit: Phil] (douche king Bradley Cooper), a schoolteacher to young children (later revealed to be a sweethearted family man who covers his precious child’s ears when the word “fuck” is uttered at a wedding by a screeching harridan). Second joke: Zach “who?” Gallifiniakknniakkis is getting measured for his groomsman tux. The elderly tailor’s hands get too high when checking the inseam, so he snaps at the tailor, calling him a “pervert.” Then to make it a sweet number three, and to irrevocably taint the rest of the film before it’s barely begun, three of the guys pull up to the house of the most emasculated of the friends—Stu (a very unfunny Ed “who?” Helms), who’s much less of a man than the rest because he has a shrew girlfriend and he ties dainty sweaters over his shoulders—and squawk from the street: “Paging Dr. Faggot! Paging Dr. Faggot!”
And we’re off and running. Of course the most I’ve read any critic mention this is Slant’s Nick Schager, who mentioned in passing the “predictable homophobic barbs marring the early mood . . .” He’s right, they are predictable, but for me, they weren’t something to just get over and move on from. They’re especially galling in light of the insane racism the rest of the film happily deals in (the only significant black character is a drug dealer, and of course there’s a cray-zee villainous Chinese posse—led by a limp-wristed, at one point naked, Ken Jeong). It’s all so unimaginative. Is there really no other way the writers could come up with jokes other than by intentional offensiveness? Of course, The Hangover isn’t particularly funny, trading in the kind of humor that, rather than relies on intricate gags or laughter based on recognition, simply aims to elicit a “oh, shit, that’s nuts!” response scene after scene. It’s more a circus than a comedy: Look! A baby knocked in the head by a car door! Look! A gross guy in a jockstrap! Look! A little naked Asian guy with a tiny penis! Look! Mike Tyson! It’s the definition of easy comedy. If it can get a laugh, then just do it, don’t worry about that small percentage of your audience who become the butt of your jokes.
But, please, hush my gay mouth. I just don’t get it, I guess. These movies—though they have the same types of homophobic jokes as any proudly tasteless comedy made in the past thirty years, from Bachelor Party to Moving Violations (!)—are now commenting on bad male behavior, right? Well, of course! These films in no way reaffirm how males should act…my stars, no: they’re simply reflecting a state of affairs. Men certainly don’t glean behavior on what men are supposed to be like from watching blockbuster hit films. Not at all. Just ask the chuckling dude sitting a few rows ahead of me who, immediately following the “text messaging is gay” joke, quietly stuffed his cell phone back in his pocket, where it stayed for the rest of the movie.