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Warning: This article contains many spoilers for the upcoming comedy The Hangover: Part II, some of them extremely sexually explicit.
Warner Bros. is betting big on penises.
The studio’s comedy sequel The Hangover: Part II is not only on track to open at more than $100 million at the box office over the Memorial Day weekend, potentially setting a record for an R-rated movie, but it might be the raunchiest film ever given a massive global release by a Hollywood studio.
Hangover II, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips and starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, is scheduled to unspool in more than 3,500 theaters in North America beginning Thursday, as well in 40 territories worldwide. That number is remarkable given the pervasive off-color language, debauched situations and, especially, the abundance of male genitals on display in the follow-up to 2009’s smash The Hangover.
The nudity in particular has already raised eyebrows among critics and those in Hollywood who have seen the film.
“The amount of penises on screen is at a new level,” says one talent manager who attended the world premiere in Hollywood last Thursday. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Male organs on screen have always carried a shock value for American audiences, whether they appear in comedies such as Porky’s or dramas like The Crying Game.
During the late-1990s, a resurgence of crass, R-rated comedy was fueled in part by the sleeper hit There’s Something About Mary, which featured an uproarious flash of Ben Stiller‘s “frank and beans.” Still, until recently, the third arm was considered the third rail in mainstream Hollywood–rarely, if ever, were male genitals seen on screen.
But in the past few years — a trend that arguably started with Sacha Baron Cohen‘s nude wrestling match with Ken Davitian in 2006’s Borat and Jason Segel‘s full-frontal in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall — the competition for using penises as a comedy prop has only gotten stiffer. From Jonah Hill’s penchant for hand-drawn genitals in producer Judd Apatow‘s Superbad to Ken Jeong‘s flashes of manhood in the first Hangover, filmmakers have felt increasingly comfortable showcasing the male body for laughs.
“It’s a last-frontier thing,” says director-producer Ivan Reitman, who produced the classic boundary-pushing comedies Animal House and Stripes, and served as an executive producer on Phillips‘ OldSchool and Road Trip. “There’s been a long tradition of naked and half naked women in films, so this is a way of upping the ante in terms of erotic explicitness.”
Lately a new crop of R-rated comedies is flooding theaters. From Reitman’s own hit sex comedy No Strings Attached in January to the Farrelly Bros.‘ Hall Pass to the current hit Bridesmaids and the upcoming BadTeacher and Friends With Benefits, studios are reacting to The Hangover‘s $467 million in worldwide box office by allowing more outrageous language and behavior onscreen.
The raunch in Hangover II — Galifianakis mistakes the word “demon” for “semen,” cocaine is snorted and strippers perform lewd acts with ping pong balls — won’t shock viewers familiar with the genre. But the film’s male nudity rises to a new level for mainstream comedy. The MPAA has rated the film R for “pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images.” And that rating doesn’t do justice to a few of the situations the Hangover men find themselves in.
During one sequence, the guys venture into a strip bar where it’s revealed that Helms’ character, who is getting married, partied too hard with what appears to be a female dancer. In the dressing room, audiences soon catch glimpse after glimpse of what’s under the hood of that dancer, played by Yasmin Lee, whose previous film credits include Big Ass She-Male Road Trip 13, Transsexual Cheerleaders and Bitch Got Balls.
“The reason it works is the matter-of-fact quality in which it’s presented,” says Reitman, who attended the premiere, where Lee and a transgendered guest proved as popular as the actors, rappers and athletes roaming the afterparty. “And this is why it’s so well-directed. It’s almost done in passing so the comedic value is more effective.”
‘The Hangover Part II’ Trailer (Video)
That scene comes after a lengthy sequence featuring a nude Jeong, including a moment when members of the gang appear to fondle his penis. And then there’s the end credits, where — like in the first movie — the events of the previous night are seen in far more explicit snapshots.
The MPAA does not comment on the rationale behind the ratings on specific films but the ratings board traditionally allows R-rated films to feature penises as long as they are not erect.
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