Why Mel Gibson Should Be In The Hangover Part II

by Andrew Osborne

In case you’ve forgotten, 2009’s original Hangover was about three guys who roofie themselves in Vegas, lose a fourth guy and spend the rest of the movie attempting to reconstruct their night of wild debauchery.  Along the way, one of them (Bradley Cooper) winds up in the hospital, another (Ed Helms) marries a stripper (Heather Graham), a third (Zach Galifianakis) gets a weird blow job and they all hang out with a baby, a tiger and heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

The central joke of the movie, of course, was how three “ordinary” guys – an immature suburbanite, a pussy-whipped dentist and a strange nerd – finally get to live on the edge, doing all the things society (and, more specifically, all the ball-busting broads in their lives) won’t normally let them do.  The roofies allow the characters to unleash their collective Male Id, a force of unbridled, fun-loving anarchy and insatiable sexual desire – and the experience is liberating.

Man-child school teacher Phil (Cooper) gets to reconnect with his glory days of youthful abandon, lonely misfit Alan (Galifianakis) finally experiences the joys of male bonding and, most importantly, nice guy Stu (Helms) gets enough of a confidence boost from his hook-up with sweet, sexy Graham to finally dump his castrating girlfriend (Rachael Harris, drawing the thankless “bitch” role).

Now, two years later, most of the Hangover cast is back, including the central “Wolfpack” of drunk dudes, Iron Mike, and even Ken Jeong’s loveable (or is it deeply annoying?) gangster, Mr. Chow.  Sadly, for those (like me) who thought the underrated Heather Graham added a nice shot of romance and fun-loving female energy to the original’s testosterone cocktail, her character has been excised from the sequel.  Instead, Stu is now on the verge of marrying a much younger woman (Jamie Chung) instead of (yeccch!) a slightly older one.

Studio flacks were vague about the reasons why Graham was cut, and the casting decision didn’t generate nearly as much controversy as the announcements that Mel Gibson would – and then would NOT – be appearing in The Hangover Part II.

Gibson, of course, is currently on the shit list of just about everyone but his Beaver director, Jodie Foster, for (A) his alleged homophobia (see:  the effeminate prince in Braveheart, an infamous 1991 interview), (B) his alleged anti-Semitism (see:  The Passion of the Christ, remarks during an infamous 2006 DUI stop), (C) his alleged racism (see: remarks during those infamous 2010 calls to his ex, Oksana Grigorieva and (D) his alleged misogyny (ditto).

As such, the casting of a REAL bad boy like Gibson didn’t fly with the faux bad boys of The Hangover Part II (particularly Galifianakis, according to rumors).  In a 2010 interview posted by TMZ, franchise director Todd Phillips said, “I thought Mel would have been great in the movie…but I realize filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and this decision ultimately did not have the full support of my entire cast and crew.”

One cast member who did support Gibson’s casting, ironically, was convicted rapist, former drug user and all-around controversy magnet…yes, wait for it…Iron Mike Tyson.  In an interview with The New York Post, the fighter-turned-actor said, “I’m not going to ever in my life point my finger at anyone.  I don’t live in a glass house.  None of us do.  I work with anybody, as long as they’re respectful…we all have that guy – a Mel Gibson – in us.”

Which, of course, is the entire premise of the Hangover franchise.

Now, while I can understand not wanting to work with someone as seemingly loathsome as Gibson, it does seem more than a little hypocritical to playfully celebrate the bad behavior of one troubled misogynist while condemning that of another in service of a massively successful franchise about bad behavior (which, incidentally, dumped its one notable female star).

And, yes, I know The Hangover Part II is meant to be nothing more than a fun, escapist comedy.  But, according to Roger Ebert’s review of the sequel, it also pushes the “bad boy” envelope even further this time, “like a challenge to the audience’s capacity for raunchiness. It gets laughs, but some of them are in disbelief. As if making sure no one was not offended, it has a montage of still photos over the closing titles that include one cruel shot that director Todd Phillips should never, ever have used…a desecration of one of the two most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War).”

Whenever a movie succeeds, Hollywood’s instinct is usually to repeat it verbatim, only bigger, louder and dumber.  And, yes, I’ll probably rent The Hangover Part II eventually, since I like most of the people involved with it.  But I definitely won’t be seeing it on the big screen.

Why?  Because I’ve already seen the light-hearted story of three friends accidentally staring into the abyss.  So if there has to be a darker, crazier sequel, why not own it with a deeper dive into what it truly means to be “bad,” featuring Gibson as the scary personification of the abyss staring back?

(P.S. – For the rewritten Nerve version of the article, click here.)

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