Sometimes, when I tell people what I’m reviewing for the week, they stare back in a sort of horror and ask why I would do that to myself. Some of the films I’ve reviewed look so terrible in advance that it’s a legitimate concern. I don’t like watching terrible movies because I’d rather watch something that enriches my life instead of detracting from it.
But I like writing about bad movies. Not boring movies, but bad movies – like The Hungover Games. On a surface glance it looks to be another entry in the ongoing parody film series that the Friedberg–Seltzer alliance kicked off with Scary Movie many years ago. It’s a terrible film, but caught in a transitory time for cheap productions trying to score pitiful laughs.
The reason that the Friedberg-Seltzer films are so terrible is that they reek of an active disdain for whatever pop culture that they’re commenting on. Superheroes? Hit them with a cow. Pregnant teenager? Have her insides consumed by ravenous demon chipmunks. Talented people in fat suits? Get ‘em to pratfall until the audience is certain they went home with a litany of bruises. They’re hateful films that have nonetheless keep getting made because, near as I can tell, we have this drive for self-flagellation when consuming things that we claim to love.
The Hungover Games treats its targets with hackneyed reflection, not with parody. After all, two of the films proudly displayed on the cover are already comedies, like The Hangover, or grotesque portrayals of pop-culture to begin with, like Ted. So it’s interesting that The Hungover Games doesn’t go the way of violent mockery and instead comes off as a movie you might make as vulgar kid - casting eerily similar look-alikes and having them battle each other. Team Hangover – sorry – Hungover fights Team Puppet fights Team Depps fights Team Gods and so on.
The key joke, and interesting point in its ineptitude, for The Hungover games lies in a quote I heard from Jack Nicholson about his film Drive, He Said. For the locker room scene Nicholson said he wanted to turn the screen into a symphony of penises. Replace penises with dildos and you have the comedic strategy of The Hungover Games down exactly. Not a scene goes by without someone brandishing a dildo at the end of a spear, wielding a five-foot dildo like a sword, seeing dildos launched through the air, and various combinations thereof as the players beat each other using these dildos.
This puts the film at a weird cross-section between the terrible gay panic jokes of yesteryear and trying to find a way to step forward without offending people. Using that very limited criteria, I kind of admire the way that The Hungover Games commits so deeply to its dildo-based combat. Now there’s still plenty of things to hate as the film shades sexism, racism, and other violent impulses in attempted irony. Pointing out aggressive stereotypes while still acting on them doesn’t provide any kind of intellectual defense and if it’s not funny then I can’t even give it a pass for amusing vulgarity.
I'm left giving the film a solid 2 - reflecting the times I laughed. The first at a disturbing image of the committed Zack Galifanakis clone attempting to motorboat himself, and the other at the stand-in for President Obama chipping away furiously with hedge clippers at a Chia Pet. I wish that the film went the extra step to make it an Obama Chia Pet, but I count my blessings as they come.
Directed by Josh Stolberg.
Screenplay written by Kyle Barnett Anderson.
Starring Ross Nathan, Sam Pancake, Ben Begley, and Herbert Russell.