My Last Night At The Varsity Theater & THE HANGOVER
June 5, 2009 Leave a comment
As I reported before, The Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, N.C. is in a period of transition. The owner, Bruce Stone, is still in negotiations and nobody knows whether it’ll remain open as it changes hands or if it will close unsold. This is all so timely as I will no longer be working at the theater. Since my move to Raleigh I’ve decided I no longer want to commute, so yesterday was my last night working my all-time favorite part-time job. We were opening 2 new movies – oddly enough both feature Mike Tyson – so I needed to change the marquee for the last time. Of course, it rained last evening (which seems to be a Thursday night tradition here) so I wasn’t feeling particularly sentimental as I climbed the ladder.
All evening I fielded questions about the fate of the theater. Stone joked last weekend that our official line to everybody was: “We’re confused.” So we’ve been saying that (or variations thereof). David Fellerath wrote this insightful article in this week’s Independent about not just the Varsity and its sister theater the Chelsea’s fate but about the bleak business and uncertain future of independent art houses these days:
The Unknown Futures Of Chapel Hill’s Varsity And Chelsea Theaters: The Moviegoer’s Lament (Independent Weekly June 3rd, 2009)
Another Thursday night tradition is to have a late showing (not open to the public unless you know somebody) of the new movie that is opening the next day. I definitely wasn’t going to miss the late show my last night at the Varsity:
THE HANGOVER (Dir. Todd Phillips, 2009)
“A bachelor party movie where you never see the bachelor party” is how director Phillips, responsible for the likes of OLD SCHOOL and STARSKY & HUTCH, described this Las Vegas-set silliness to The New York Times. Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms play the overgrown child protagonists who wake to find themselves in way over their heads after a night of stag party debauchery. In their trashed hotel suite they find that the groom (Justin Bartha) is missing, Helms has a tooth missing, a Bengal tiger is in the bathroom, and there’s a baby in the closet. They remember nothing of what happened so you might expect more than a little of DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? mixed with just a dash of THREE MEN AND A BABY and you wouldn’t be far off.
Galifianakis, in the Belushi/Jack Black role, has the funniest lines and frequently steals the movie from his co-stars. The one-liners come fast and furious but sadly there are a lot of stale comic stylizations like, for instance, a Tarentino slow-motion group walk towards the camera with “Who Let The Dogs Out” blaring on the soundtrack. As the events of the night before are revealed there are some tasty turns – Mike Tyson, playing himself, as the tiger’s owner and Heather Graham as a hooker that Helms finds he’s now married to have their charms but some other plot points and clichéd character bits fall flat.
As likable as the leads are, THE HANGOVER is only fitfully funny but I would still say it’s has enough genuine laughs in it to meet my comedy quota. It is a definite improvement over Phillips previous lowbrow fare as it shows he can handle natural feeling rhythms, timing, and tone. While another draft (or 2) on the screenplay probably wouldn’t have made this a comedy classic, it feels a tad undercooked so this is a pretty reserved recommendation. However, I suspect it may have a re-watchability factor and that some elements might rub me better sometime down the line. Maybe, like a real hangover, when the annoying pangs wear off I’ll be able to remember the best of the original buzz.
Okay! So that was my last night working at the Varsity. I’ll miss working on Franklin Street and downtown Chapel Hill in general. I would usually post recent pictures of the marquee on the sidebar on this blog and that’s something I’ll also miss. But don’t worry, this change won’t affect this blog much – I love movies and will continue to see as many movies as possible and tell you what I think. I’ll also keep you updated on the respective fates of the Varsity and Chelsea Theaters…so please – stay tuned.