Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mockbusted #20: "The Hungover Games" Review

Out of all the movies from 2013 that I thought might possibly be mockbusted, I never considered that anyone would ever bother to rip off a Friedberg and Seltzer spoof. Last year, we got The Starving Games, a mostly terrible Hunger Games parody that only escaped being one of the worst films of the year by virtue of it being one of the (relatively) best Friedberg/Seltzer movies (a very low bar, mind you) in a year where Vince Offer also made a movie. Still, that there would be not one but two spoofs of a now two year old movie released just in time for its more recent sequel is kinda weird. What's even weirder is that despite the fact that its written and produced by the seldom funny Jaime Kennedy, its actually not half bad.

Okay, scratch that, it is half bad. In fact, The Hungover Games is probably about 60 to 70% bad all told. Taken out of context purely on its own merits, it is at least more bad than good, and nothing that I would recommend whole heartedly. The problem with that is that movies, especially spoofs, don't exist in a vacuum, and it is impossible to judge a movie like The Hungover Games without appreciating it in the larger context of the Spoof Genre, or rather what the aforementioned Friedberg and Seltzer team have done to it. On its own, its not really all that good, but compared to pretty much every other spoof movie since the Zuckers quit and the Scary Movie franchise started the ball of unbearable shit moving, its practically a masterpiece.

Its juvenile, often crude for the sake of being crude, and clearly targeted at a more puerile mindset that is partial to gay jokes and gratuitous nudity, but all that being said, at least it tries something. You get the sense that even amid the bad jokes, at least the people making the movie find it funny, and don't have disdain for the audience that agrees with them, even if you or I might not be among that audience. They're not just throwing out random pop culture references in place of jokes, but actually trying to, you know, write them. And what do you know, when you actually sit down and try to write a script and make it as funny as you can within a certain rubric, even if you're not very good at it, persistence can pay off with a few beats here and there worth the effort, enough to keep more mature viewers engaged. I laughed at about every sixth or seventh joke, which sounds bad, but for a movie like this is practically unheard of.

This isn't the Movie Movie mold of referencing a thing and expecting you to laugh purely because you relate to it being a thing. The writers of this movie actually understand what parody means. The references are there, but they're actually commented upon and deconstructed appropriately. When Ted from the titular Seth McFarlane movie kills Django and has to justify his apparent racism, its a bit of satire that reflects the actual reality of what's presented, as opposed to The Starving Games, where at some point The Avengers show up out of nowhere, because hey, people remember them from that other movie, so fuck it, who cares? Moments like various characters played by Johnny Depp expressing Johnny Depp fatigue are almost close to brilliant, and while they're few and far between, its enough that I was grateful for the effort taken to actually entertain me.

Even the set up is so much better than its Friedberg/Seltzer counterpart. Instead of just doing The Hunger Games and throwing in the other movies at random, The Hungover Games combines them all into a universe that at least by dumb comedy standards makes sense and feels organic. The games are the result of a public uprising over our collective hatred of sequels, reboots, and spoofs, and the districts are split up by genre, with a superhero district, a Depp district, a puppet movie district, and so on. The heroes are the guys from the Hangover movies trying desperately to avoid another retread (see, satire!) only to drunkenly volunteer for the games during their night of amnesia, and each one of them is legitimately good at capturing the characters they're spoofing, to the point where I could easily see them reprising these roles in a Hangover prequel that for other obvious reasons I hope to God never comes

As bad as it is, I would still recommend that you track down The Hungover Games and give it a watch if you have the time, if only to sit in amazement at how incrementally better it is than every other spoof movie in the past fifteen years or so. That doesn't make it good by any stretch, but then its also direct to VOD, and considering we have another A Haunted House movie coming to a theater near you this year, the fact that this is the one without a wide release is practically criminal. As bad movies go, I wish that this were the worst that cinema had to offer. I'm sure it will get nothing but crapped on by a critical establishment that doesn't know just how bad a bad movie can get, and hasn't been buried under as much shit as I have to find a movie like this such a refreshing respite, but I for one can only give credit where credit is due. They didn't have to try even this hard, and could have easily slipped by with garbage, but they didn't, and that's worth celebrating, even if the end result isn't exactly great.
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