If you haven’t read my reviews of the Hangover series — why are you here, first off? — I’ll summarize. I think that is the worst theatrically released trilogy in cinema history and apart from the Mike Tyson cameos they are completely lacking in humor from frame one to conclusion. I note this because The Hungover Games is a film spoofing both it, The Hunger Games, and a bunch of scenes from other movies. I’ll say this: I’ve seen worse.
Here’s the premise. Four dudes, named after the real names of the actors in the Hangover films — Bradley (Ross Nathan), Ed (Ben Begley), Zach (Herbert Russell), and Doug (John Livingston) — have a night of heavy partying and wake up in the future that just so happens to be a version of the Hunger Games in which the participants are all from various movie franchises. I can think of way worse premises. This one’s at least kind of creative. Doug is missing but is presumed to be in the competition, so Bradley, Ed, Zach, and “Katnip” (Rita Volk) team up to try to find him while also killing all of the other participants.
This premise allows the filmmakers to take pot-shots at how uncreative Hollywood is, let out their anger on individual characters or properties, and make a better Hangover movie than Todd Phillips did with a seemingly unlimited budget and access to relatively big stars. Now, that’s less a promotion of this film than it is a continued criticism of the Hangover movies. No, I won’t let it go. I gave those films 302 minutes of my life. They can take words upon words of criticism.
After the set-up, we get to basically watch an abbreviated version of The Hunger Games, just with all the characters swapped out for the likes of Thor, Ted, Django, and so on. I’m not sure why all these properties would still be kicking around in the very far future, but, then, perhaps it’s all a shared dream from the four leads, so it kind of works. Thinking too hard about this type of film is kind of like trying to eat water. There’s no point. Just drink it down.
Yes, that’s about as much of an analogy I could offer. It fits right in with the kind of high-minded thought that the script has to offer you. There is nothing of even remote intelligence here. It’s kind of creative, sure, but it’s not smart. You’re not going to have to think hard about all of the jokes, and many of them are reworkings of earlier, better spoof films. Still, it could be far worse. If you’ve already seen The Starving Games, you know it can be worse. This film carries with it an R rating and that at least means we get low-budget violence, profanity, and an occasional breast. So there’s that.
The cast is game. The filmmakers have found actors who resemble their Hangover counterparts, and I almost want to see what a straight Hangover film would look like if this team decided to do it. It couldn’t be any worse, right? Some of the jokes are moderately clever, mostly in the way that they subvert expectations. Many are predictable, sure, but there’s one every couple of minutes that will make you laugh not just because it’s written and delivered well, but because it’s completely opposite from what you expected.
The Hungover Games also contains a higher-than-expected level of cinematography, production design, and special effects. You aren’t taken out of the film because it looks cheap, which is something spoof movies can rarely claim. It’s very low budget, sure, but there’s at least some talent behind the camera making it look as good as possible. This is a throwaway direct-to-video film, but it’s nice to see that someone cared.
If you enjoy spoof movies and want to see a lowbrow sense of humor mixed in with a clever premise for a film, you can do a lot worse than The Hungover Games. I don’t recommend most people see it, but given the complete lack of quality in recent spoof films, this one is actually somehow better than a lot of the pack. It’s dumb and it’s only occasionally funny, but for what it is that makes it almost worth seeing. At least it’s not another Hangover movie. I don’t think I could handle one of those.