Monday, February 22, 2010

The Hangover and Big Fan, A Pair of Sixes

The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)/Big Fan (Robert Siegel, 2009) [6]
The Hangover is by no means the comedic masterwork that its word of mouth and box office had led me to believe. I had known Phillips is a one-note director, as his male bonding over crazy situation comedies all follow the same basic template. Here a group of various guys head to Las Vegas for the standard crazy bachelor party. Where The Hangover differs a little is in its structure, where it places the viewer in the same predicament as its characters in putting together the pieces to figure out what happened. Outside of that, the film is consistently amusing but has few truly hilarious moments. Not surprisingly, Zach Galifinakis provides the funniest moments, many of them ad-libbed or taken from his stand up act. In a testament to the sad state of Hollywood comedies, this passes for something considered hilarious where I find nothing that remarkable about it.

Big Fan features a great performance by Patton Oswalt but is bogged down by its lackluster direction. Oswalt is at times hilariously out of touch and tragically demented as Paul Auifero, a Staten Island parking garage attendent whose entire life is wrapped up in the New York Giants. A chance encounter with the Giants star linebacker ends up with Paul getting beating up which puts the Giants' season and Paul's alliegance in limbo. What Siegel does right is nail the fine line between being a die-hard fan and being a borderline delusional fanatic. This is highlighted best in Paul's calls to a sports radio show. Paul works all day on these rants/responses and the end result is nothing more than the nonsenical drivel that is spewed out daily on sports radio. But it also captures the idea that this these rants are the only element of Paul's life that he actually cares about and how his fandom overrules evertyhing else in his life. Siegel highlights these points well but the film offers nothing more than a blank space to show all this. The only instance where the film seems to grasp Paul's character and mental state is at the end, which has a amusing twist that saves Big Fan from being underwhelming. Where The Hangover mostly maxed out its potential, the main issue with Big Fan is that it could have a bit more visual substance to match its main character's performance.

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