The Hangover and Land of the Lost opened on the same day. Other than that, they have little in common. The Hangover is a raunchy comedy about the aftermath of a Las Vegas bachelor party that would have been unforgettable if any of the attendees could remember any of it. The movie has male and female nudity, substance abuse, and many different kinds of very bad behavior. The movie is rated R, just barely (no pun intended). The still photos over the closing credits merit an NC-17.
Land of the Lost is based on a classic — if cheesy — 1970’s children’s television show. It has dinosaurs and time travel but it is “rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference.”
Both movies are silly comedies with no aspiration to be anything else, but I would argue that it is the superficially raunchier film, “The Hangover,” that is more moral and a more entertaining film as a result. “Land of the Lost” treats its female character (played by the talented and beautiful Anna Friel) as a prop. She is there to provide exposition, to be literally pawed by an ape-boy, and to gaze adoringly at Will Ferrell. Although she is the only intelligent and capable person in the film, she is treated as an afterthought. The other characters behave badly and treat her badly and there are no consequences of any kind.
“The Hangover,” on the other hand, is a movie entirely about consequences. The bachelor party guests spend the whole film piecing together the bad choices they made the night before and paying for them financially, emotionally, and even spiritually. They all learn something important and we leave confident that they will be unlikely to repeat their mistakes (except that they have already agreed to a sequel). Furthermore, legally and morally they are not completely responsible for the worst of their behavior because they were drugged, two of them inadvertently.
No one is arguing that either of these films is any kind of morality tale. They are both helium-weight comedies. But I think “The Hangover” is a better film because it fits the innate audience desire for justice and lessons learned. The vicarious thrill of the transgressive behavior is not nearly as satisfying as seeing the characters learn some painful lessons and pay for their mistakes.
For a little more insight into the MPAA’s approach to ratings, take a look at what they have to say.
Last night, “Billy Elliot” and its three young stars won Tony awards. Now is a good time to watch the movie about the boy who wants to dance that inspired it all (rated R for constant very bad language but otherwise suitable for mature teens).
The latest Shaun the Sheep movie is “Sheep on the Loose” The people who created “Wallace and Gromit” are behind this wonderful new series about a sheep who does not follow the flock — but sometimes gets the flock to follow him. And you never know who and what will turn out to be animated. Witty and imaginative, these DVDs are a delight for the whole family.
The first person to send me an email at email@example.com with “Sheep” in the subject line will get a new Shaun DVD. Good luck!
The 1974 version of “The Taking of Pelham 123” is one of my favorite thrillers, with a brilliant cast that includes Robert Shaw, Walter Matthau, and Jerry Stiller and a terrific score by David Shire. I’m hoping that this week’s release of the remake with John Travolta and Denzel Washington will be as good. Here’s a reminder of the original.