This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond “Hangover 2”

By Pete Hammond Well, don’t ever underestimate the appetite of the moviegoers for lowdown , gross –out comedy, especially of the brand they have seen before. In this case the Wolfpack of The Hangover have done it again, virtually the same exact way they did it the first time. In The Hangover Part II, only the location has changed (from Vegas to Bangkok) but all the rest including the unexplained group drunken bender during a pre-wedding party for Ed Helms, the search for the buddy who inexplicably goes missing, the funny animal who just appears in their room (this time a drug-dealing monkey instead of a tiger), crazy Asian Ken Jeong naked again (really he should reconsider baring all) and even though you have to wait all the way to the end, Mike Tyson is back singing too! Predictable , yes. Funny, in parts. Popular, uh yeah. Breaking all sorts of records for Memorial Day, an R-rated comedy, a single day’s gross and pushing the limits of the ratings board, this Hangover is a smash. In fact it and the number two film, another retread, Kung Fu Panda 2 has made this four day Memorial Day weekend (and five day boxoffice period since both opened on Thursday instead of the usual Friday) a record-setter itself up more than 50% over last year and several million above 2007 which had the advantage of three major second sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3 and Spider Man 3. This time we have a couple of 2’s in Hangover and Kung Fu Panda and a 4 in Pirates proving everything old is new again or Hollywood doesn’t have any original ideas or audiences just want to rehash the same old stuff or—the correct answer — all of the above.
With an estimated three day of $85 million, a four day Memorial Day holiday take of $105 million and an overall five day of $137 million this is quite a bounty for a movie much of its target audience probably had to sneak in to see. The film was rated by Cinemascore with an astounding A+ satisfaction level for moviegoers 18 and under (and A- overall among all attendees). But how they did get in? It’s rated ‘R’ so no one under 17 without an adult, and I doubt many 16 year olds were turning this into a family outing, meaning they probably bought a ticket for Panda and snuck into one of the several gazillion multi-plex screens showing Hangover II instead. That means other movies would have their grosses inflated but attendance deflated while Hangover surely would have made even more money if given credit for all the teen sneak-bys.
So 16 year old hormonal teen boys are thrilled, Warner Bros is thrilled , director Todd Phillips is thrilled, the entire Wolfpack is thrilled and the prospect of a Hangover III is very real indeed. In fact studio boss Jeff Robinov has said he already expects one. But how far can you go with this concept? For Hangover to work the same group of guys have to get blitzed the same way at yet another wedding or some other occasion. Will audiences keep accepting the formula? Of course. Doing these things the same exact way is part of the fun and the audacity of it all. Studios will keep dishing it because they know we don’t demand more. It’s like watching the 3 Stooges. We know what’s gonna happen and we wait for it.
A top performer of the previous two weekends, Bridesmaids, is proving very durable too as a kind of female Hangover, once again dropping a mere 21% even with the added competition from the boys. That’s impressive and by next weekend this very funny comedy (better than both Hangovers put together in my opinion) will be well over $100 million. As for Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides both are proving to be international behemoths. Pirates is so far the biggest film of the year with a whopping worldwide total approaching $650 million before the holiday is over. Some analysts cited its $90 million domestic start last weekend as “soft” but it’s anything but when put in context of what the Rob Marshall-directed sequel is pulling down around the globe. It will be the biggest Pirates ever, that’s already clear. And Panda with about $68 million through the holiday also got an “A” cinemascore which means continued word of mouth and playability among family audiences. Of course heightened 3D ticket prices helped both these films whereas Hangover did it the old fashioned way, without glasses (unless there was whiskey in them).
It’s finally good times for the movie business after a slow start for the first four months of the year, evidenced even by the gargantuan grosses limited releases are taking in too. Cannes Palme d’Or winner Tree Of Life from director Terrence Malick is raking up the biggest totals for a Palme d’Or winner in some time. With an $88,000 per screen average from just four NY and LA screens this challenging movie already is Fox Searchlight’s biggest per screen opener ever. It wasn’t enough though to top Woody Allen’s smash , Midnight In Paris which opened to a per screen last week just a hair under $100,000 and this week expanded to 58 screens and already a spot in the box office top ten. It’s just a few sheckels shy of toppling the ENTIRE gross of Allen’s last picture, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, in just a few days. Wow. Good times indeed, and well deserved for Woody who delivered a comic masterpiece this time.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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