At the Movies: 'Hangover II,' 'Dolphins' and 'Broom'
Updated 12:29 pm, Friday, May 27, 2011
Following are reviews of the latest movies in area theaters by Susan Granger:
"THE HANGOVER, PART II"
How much trouble do Phil, Stu and Alan get into this time? Plenty.
Since "The Hangover" became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, it's not surprising that writer/director Todd Phillips' formulaic sequel continues the chaos. Beginning two years after the Vegas fiasco, Stu (Ed Helms) the dentist is engaged to Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose wealthy parents are hosting the lavish wedding at the exotic Krabi resort on the Andaman Sea in their native Thailand.
Explaining, "I'm still putting the broken pieces of my psyche back together," Stu opts for a subdued bachelor brunch, particularly since his outspoken future father-in-law (Nirut Sirichanya) obviously disapproves of him. But Stu's buddies -- Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and unwanted tagalong Alan (Zach Galifianakis) -- are determined to party, so two nights before the big day, they gather for a bonfire on the beach, along with the bride's precocious 16-year-old brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), a cello virtuoso who's pre-med at Stanford. With one beer each and Alan's marshmallows to roast, what could go wrong?
"Where are we?" Phil wonders when he wakes up in a sleazy hotel room in Bangkok. "I can't believe this is happening again," wails Stu, whose face now has a permanent tribal tattoo. There's a severed finger in a bowl of water and a drug-dealing, cigarette-smoking capuchin monkey (Crystal) in the bathroom. But where's Teddy?
Desperate to find the missing teenager, Stu, Phil and Alan try to recall what happened the previous night and retrace their debauchery through Bangkok's humid sexual playground, joining up with the mysterious Asian mobster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who ominously observes, "Bangkok has him."
As scripted by Phillips, Craig Martin and Scot Armstrong, their search leads them to Buddhist monks, Russian drug dealers, female impersonators, an American tattooist (Nick Cassavetes), an enigmatic crime entrepreneur (Paul Giamatti) -- and Mike Tyson.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Hangover, Part II" is a raunchy, shenanigan-filled 6. As the wolfpack's craziness concludes, don't leave before the revelatory `photos' during the final credits.
Combining science education with eye candy, Greg MacGillivray's Oscar-nominated "Dolphins" makes a return visit to the huge IMAX screen at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.
Generally regarded as the most intelligent of animals, dolphins are marine mammals, closely related to porpoises and whales. There are 40 different dolphin species found worldwide, mostly in shallower seas off continental shelves. Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this nature documentary focuses on understanding these creatures' complicated eco-location behavior and intricate physiology.
Connecticut native Dr. Kathleen Dudinski, has studied dolphin communication for many years, working from a lab in the Bahamas. Using an underwater video/audio array that she designed, Dr. Dudinski records the clicks, whistles and other sounds made by hundreds of dolphins as the cavort in the warm waters of the Caribbean. She then analyzes these tapes to determine which dolphin is vocalizing and how others in the pod react to particular sounds. And naturalist Dean Bernal has established a remarkable human/dolphin friendship with JoJo, a dolphin who cavorts with him in the reefs off Turks & Caicos.
During the past 50 years, Bottlenose dolphins have been popularized and romanticized by the "Flipper" movies and television series, as Flipper became a kind of seagoing Lassie, rescuing those in danger and always returning home. "Free Willy" (1973) starred an Orca dolphin named Keiko, and the horror movie "Orca" (1977) focused on a male Orca wreaking revenge after his mate was killed by fishermen. "The Day of the Dolphin" (1973) featured dolphins executing a naval military mission using explosives. And in the 1990s, "SeaQuest" introduced a Bottlenose named Darwin, who communicated using a vocoder, a fictional invention that translated clicks and whistles into English.
But the truth is that dolphins are endangered, particularly by fishermen trolling with huge nets. And even the cheery calypso music by Sting cannot sugarcoat that ongoing menace.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Dolphins" swims in with a splashy 7 -- and marine biologist Dr. Dudinski will discuss her research, along with the film, on Thursday, June 9, at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
"JUMPING THE BROOM"
There's a culture clash when two African-American families from divergent socioeconomic backgrounds get together to celebrate a wedding on the island of Martha's Vineyard.
After a disastrous one-night stand, corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton) vows to remain celibate until marriage. Then she accidentally hits handsome Jason Taylor (Laz Alonzo) with her Audi. He's an investment banker and, after a chaste five months of dating, he proposes to her outside Manhattan's Lincoln Center. She's just been offered a lucrative job in China and he's agreed to go with her. All they have to do is get married first -- and that's easier said than done.
Sabrina's snobbish, pretentious parents, Claudine and Greg (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell), insist on hosting the wedding weekend at their sumptuous Martha's Vineyard seaside estate. "Our family was never slaves," Claudine Watson explains. "We owned slaves."
"You need to get down off your high horse and come back to Earth, because you're black," snaps Jason's outspoken mother, Pam (Loretta Devine), a U.S. postal worker from Brooklyn. She arrives with Willie Earl (Mike Epps), the brother of her late husband, and her best friend, Shonda (Tasha Smith), and then refuses to eat the food because, as Pam explains, "The shrimp is cold!" Plus, there's Amy (Julie Bowen), the clueless white wedding planner, plus the requisite last-minute revelations.
The title stems from an African-American wedding custom that dates back to when slaves were not permitted to marry and they, therefore, had to create their own traditions to mark this special occasion. Their friends would lay a broom on the floor, and the new couple would jump over it, symbolizing the start of their life together.
While screenwriters Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibb, along with veteran television director Salim Akil, combine their slight nuptial farce with conventional melodrama, the result is somewhat uneven -- with matriarchs Bassett and Devine exuding such hostility that it's difficult to lighten the mood.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jumping the Broom" is a sparring 6, crammed full of familiar stereotypes.