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DVD retrospective: Todd Phillips

The Hangover Part II Film Poster
The Hangover Part II Film Poster
Photos Courtesy of Yahoo Images

Director Todd Phillips has amassed a great track record for wild and funny R-rated comedies. This weekend, his latest effort, The Hangover Part II has already amassed a reasonably impressive $31.66 million dollars since opening Wednesday. He stands to soon be credited as the director of the number one and two highest grossing R-rated comedies of all time (current champ is the first Hangover movie, but details on that if you read further), which invariably will lead to talk about a third film. In the mean time if you are interested in checking other work from the Brooklyn native's filmography, here are four great films to start looking:

Due Date: It would seem like a pretty boring premise, a buddy comedy about two men (Robert Downey Jr.'s Peter and Zach Galifianakis' Ethan) driving cross-country so that Peter can be present for the birth of his first child. Yet, the trip is funnier and more unexpected than that with some surprisingly somber moments. It's certainly Phillips' most mature work as a filmmaker as we follow Peter's emotional journey as the uptight man must begin to adjust to insanity and change while dealing with the irrational Ethan. Some may be frustrated that not every subplot is wrapped as nicely as you may be expect of a movie, but it hits the correct chords to its inevitable conclusion. This is certainly serviced by its two exceptionally funny leads who have such divergent energies and methods of comedic delivery that its a good film for people with diverging senses of humor to agree on watching.

Grade: A-

The Hangover: I previously reviewed this film for the site and awarded it the moniker of best DVD of 2009, but its too good and timely to ignore. This comedy about an unlikely trio of groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Galifianakis) trying to piece together what happened the night before during a Vegas bachelor party gone wrong is hysterical. It has a clear goal (find the groom played by Justin Bartha), and follows a cleverly plotted detective story based on some bizarre clues. It's absurdist humor, shocking turns, and deft cast make it a comedy worth repeat viewings. There's quite a few reasons here why the studio wanted the sequel and are trying to recapture this magic. Ken Jeong's scene-stealing Mr. Chow popping out of nowhere and Mike Tyson's surprising cameo are only the opening arguments.

Grade: A

Old School: If you like this movie about three adult men (played by Vince Vaughan, Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson) who decide to start their own fraternity then it is because you are a fan of its stars. Of the four films featured it has the most scattered tone and story arc because it seems to be more a film to give excuse for these equally talented comedians to be thrown together on the same screen. There are a number of laugh out loud moments, but they are buried in the synconicities of its performers rather than the story being told.

Grade: B

Road Trip: You would think that any film prominently featuring Tom Green (remember when he was really popular on MTV and married to Drew Barrymore?) would just now be a nostalgic road trip of the 90s. Yet, on second look it still holds up as a strong comedy with a completely unbelievable concept that was strengthened by its crazy talented cast (thank you Breckin Meyer, DJ Qualls, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, Paolo Costanzo, Anthony Rapp) who have all gone on to varying degrees of success. The movie follows everyman Josh (Meyer) as he talks his friends (Scott, Costanzo, Qualls) into a road trip to see his girlfriend (Rachel Blanchard) so that they may steal back the sex tape Josh made with a local co-ed (Smart) and somehow manage to also pass his final exams (despite a villainous TA played by Rapp trying to sabotage the mission on both levels). This is not a high-brow film on any level, but features clever jokes, services its characters thoughtfully, and will certainly keep audiences laugh out loud laughing throughout.

Grade: B+


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