Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When life makes things less funny

The Hangover did excellent business this weekend, raking in an impressive $43.3 million -- which is frankly phenomenal for an R-rated comedy. What's more impressive is it more than doubled the box office for the opening weekend of Land of the Lost, in what must be a huge disappointment for Will Ferrell, whose appeal as a leading man appears to have flat-lined.

But I have to wonder if many of those in the Hangover audience watched it with some amount of melancholy.

You see, the part of the TV commercial that made me laugh out loud was when Mike Tyson is drumming and singing along to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," and punches out Zack Galifianakis on the final beat of percussion. (My guess is that's how it's cut in the trailer, not how it actually happens in the movie).

This was, of course, before Tyson's four-year-old daughter strangled herself on the wiring of a treadmill at their house.

From a purely business standpoint, Warner Brothers, the film's distributors, must have panicked when they found out about the death of little Exodus Tyson. How can you keep showing an ad in which a joke about Tyson is the tag (is that the right term? DGB will tell me), when the real-world Tyson is engulfed in tragedy?

I didn't notice them pulling the ad. Nor did I notice, obviously, any effect on the film's box office. But when I see it myself -- probably sometime this week -- I expect to feel a bit melancholy during Tyson's scenes.

It's really interesting how something like this humanizes a guy we all love to feel superior toward. They cast Tyson in this movie, I'm sure, because of how absurd he is, and it shows the guy is a better sport than we thought that he decided to be in on the joke. Well, now the joke's on us for making Tyson our clown. He's a pretty sad clown right about now.

It's been a prominent year for Tyson -- James Toback also released a documentary about him called Tyson a couple months ago. I heard mixed things about it -- some said it was brilliant, some said Toback, his good buddy, made a puff piece and failed to ask the probing questions. Either way I expect to be seeing it as soon as it comes out on video.

Here's hoping the big box office for The Hangover at least helped the former ear-biter feel a little bit better after the bitter pill he's had to swallow. After all, a lot of that was people coming to see him, people who laughed out loud at his appearance in the commercial, like I did. For a guy who loves the spotlight, Tyson may need a little personal validation to help get through this.


Don Handsome said...

When I (just) took a long lunch and went to see The Hangover I didn't even think about Tyson's daughter. I knew about Tyson's daughter but I also decided to see the movie today, bought my ticket, and watched the whole thing – including the Tyson scenes - not remembering at all about her. I think the reason for this us that Mike Tyson isn't really a person in the movie...he's clearly only a character and could have been played by anyone (its not surprising that he's mostly referred to as "champ", perhaps betraying the fact that the script may have just been written for a boxer to be a part of the shenanigans and not Tyson per se). There is not one echo of a daughter in the character “Tyson's” screen time, and I suspect that there is very little real-Mike Tyson in “Tyson” (the Phil Collins fetish may be true, but I sort of doubt it) nor is there any mention of any quintessential Tyson things. Assuming that Tyson got paid a year and half ago or so for his work in The Hangover and for the use of his name in the movie, I would bet that this flick isn't even on his radar. I’d also bet that the box office take for this movie had more to do with an incredible preview (in which “Tyson” is a good, but not the only, punch line), a great poster (as you’ve already discussed, Vance), and a marketing blitz for an R-Rated comedy unlike anything I can recall. The hype of The Hangover is much bigger than Mike Tyson, just like the movie is much bigger than “Mike Tyson”. I would be surprised if they had Mike Tyson out doing any promotion for The Hangover after the death of his daughter, but I’d also be surprised if they had Mike Tyson out doing promotion for The Hangover at all. I don’t think they even had him do promotion for the documentary that bears his last name. I guess I’d be more inclined to believe that the tragedy would have more of an impact on the box office take for the film Tyson which is about Mike Tyson and not “Mike Tyson”.

Vancetastic said...

True. (I know you said a lot of things, Don, but my response to all of them is "true"). I guess I didn't really mean anything when I suggested that the death of his daughter might actually influence box office -- chances are that it would not. What I really meant to say was that they didn't decrease the advertising as a result of it, or if they did, the decrease did not negatively influence the box office. Mostly I just think it's harder to laugh at/with him when you know he's going through this tragedy, and I'm wondering if that seemed to affect anyone's enjoyment of his scenes.

Vancetastic said...

Plus, I do think that the appearance of Tyson in the trailers probably put a ton of asses in the seats in less "sophisticated" parts of the country. He is the film's "biggest star," even if he is not a primary character. People don't watch The Office or Comedy Central in the red states, so they don't know Ed Helms; Bradley Cooper is a supporting character no matter how you slice it; and Zack Galifandfasdifasdfixis would be "Zack WHO?" even if he didn't have a difficult-to-pronounce last name.

Don Handsome said...

WELL...I listened to Ed Helms on “Wait Wait Don't Tell Me” over the weekend and he didn't say ANYTHING about Tyson. Oh...OK...I see your point. Tyson IS the biggest star in that film...

Still I'm not sure it matters...big star or not, he essentially a set piece in a killer ad campaign. Tyson or not, there isn't one teen or college aged dude who sees that trailer and doesn't want to see the movie. The promotion staff is actually the true star of the movie, so let me just say that I'm thankful that they didn't play up or down the Tyson thing...playing it up would have been a tacky death-blow, but down playing it would probably have been unnecessary. Why mess with brilliant promotion?

Don Handsome said...

Oh and I appreciate you saying that I live in a sophisticated part of the country. Not sure I always agree with that - especially w/r/t the world of film - but I'll take it where I can get it.

Vancetastic said...

Well, I guess Tyson isn't so broken up about his daughter's death after all. I just found out that he got married on Saturday night, less than two weeks after his daughter died. Strange timing indeed.