Total Recall

Total Recall: Memorable Movie Bachelor Parties

With The Hangover Part II hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema's wildest pre-marital bashes.

by | May 27, 2011 | Comments

Bachelor Parties

So we don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a sequel to a little movie called The Hangover coming out this week, in which pre-wedding festivities once again go horribly, hilariously awry for three guys in way, way over their heads (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms). The first Hangover took bachelor party comedy to a new level, so in honor of the Wolfpack’s return, we took a look at some of the other notable entries in the genre. Like many actual weddings, some of these movies didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but we’re betting you’ll find a few favorites as you sift through the Tomatometer wreckage. Dearly beloved, it’s time to Total Recall!

American Wedding


Few characters in the annals of modern mainstream Hollywood comedy have been more uniquely qualified or prepared to plan a bachelor party than Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), the sex-obsessed lunatic whose exploits helped the American Pie series redefine raunchy R-rated humor. With American Wedding, he finally got his chance — and he didn’t disappoint, lining up a pair of strippers to surprise the soon-to-be-wedded Jim (Jason Biggs). Of course, Stifler being Stifler, things didn’t exactly turn out as planned; in fact, Jim’s new in-laws ended up becoming unplanned participants in all the ribaldry. But all’s well that ends well, and although Wedding didn’t earn distinguished critical marks, it made over $230 million at the box office, and earned somewhat begrudging praise from the likes of Robert Denenstein of the Denver Rocky Mountain News, who called it “Funny when it needs to be” and added, “I don’t know what more you can ask from the third installment of a series that has gone further than anyone reasonably could have expected.”

Bachelor Party


Before he started hoarding Oscar nominations, Tom Hanks had to work his way up the professional ladder just like anyone else — a journey that included starring in this cheerfully ribald, playfully shallow 1984 comedy about a bus driver whose trip to the altar with his fiancee (Tawny Kitaen) has to make it through dozens of wacky obstacles, including a disapproving father-in-law, a scheming ex-boyfriend, and a donkey. It’s pretty standard stuff as far as the T&A comedies of the 1980s are concerned, and quite a few critics dismissed it out of hand, but Bachelor Party has become something of a cult classic over the years — something that might have been predicted by Roger Ebert, who gave it three stars and wrote, “Bachelor Party has some great moments and qualifies as a raunchy, scummy, grungy Blotto Bluto memorial.”

The Best Man


Spike Lee’s cousin Malcolm made his debut with this 1999 dramedy, which stars Taye Diggs as Harper Stewart, a budding novelist whose doubts about his girlfriend (Sanaa Lathan) are put to the test when a galley copy of his book starts making the rounds among his friends — and an ex-girlfriend who might be the one that got away (Nia Long). As if all that weren’t enough to deal with, Harper is also faced with handling the titular duties at the wedding of his best friend (Morris Chestnut), which includes hiring an attractive young woman (Regina Hall) to perform a rather provocative dance. Boasting a smartly written script, a likable cast (including Terrence Howard in an early role), and a solid soundtrack featuring The Roots, Maxwell, and Beyoncé, The Best Man earned praise from critics such as Michael Dequina of The Movie Report, who argued, “If you ask me, it’s impossible to not like a film that ends with the entire cast doing the electric slide to Cameo’s 1980s funk classic ‘Candy.'”

Bride Wars


In Hollywood, a wedding isn’t a wedding until the bride loses her mind, and nothing is as funny as a good cat fight. Enter 2009’s Bride Wars, a slapstick brawl to the altar between two lifelong best friends (Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson) whose relationship is torn asunder when their weddings are mistakenly planned for the same day. When neither bride-to-be is willing to change her date, it unleashes a flood of repressed rage, cruel practical jokes, and one very aggressive bachelorette party dance-off, as well as a climactic brawl (in wedding dresses, natch). Bride Wars was a $115 million hit, but most critics didn’t find it all that funny; in fact, most of them dismissed it as more proof of the film industry’s patronizing attitude toward female relationships. A notable exception was Time’s Mary Pols, who wrote that “even though the catfighting goes over the top, the notion that a passionate female friendship can turn ugly in a heartbeat is, sadly, realistic.”

Clerks II


Most movie bachelor parties promise untold levels of debauchery, but — much like their real-life counterparts — tend to be relatively tame affairs. Leave it to Kevin Smith to film an exception to the rule with Clerks II, which puts audiences in the front row for a donkey show with an unexpected twist. A film so gleefully profane that Joel Siegel infamously walked out of his screening, Clerks II ultimately failed to capture the cultural zeitgeist the way its predecessor did, but for some critics, it represented Smith’s growth as a filmmaker. Calling it “Probably the funniest film Smith has done since the original,” Joe Utichi of FilmFocus argued, “it’s chock full of childish humour and witty observations on pop culture — but there’s something real beneath all of that as well. Something, dare it be said, touching.”

A Guy Thing


Okay, so the Tomatometer isn’t so hot, but…hey, how about that cast? A Guy Thing revolves around the laff-a-minute travails of a hapless groom-to-be (Jason Lee) who wakes up the morning after his bachelor party to discover the stripper (Julia Stiles) next to him — and then finds out she’s related to his fiancee (Selma Blair). Wackity schmackity doo! In spite of its likable stars, A Guy Thing sputtered at the box office and was pounced on by most critics, although it did have a few defenders — including the kind-hearted Peter Howell of the Toronto Star, who called it “A bale of romantic fluff that is a lot funnier than it has any right to be.”

The Hangover


After all these years, you’d think there wasn’t much left to add to the bachelor party subgenre, but then along comes The Hangover and throws a random assortment of animals, an enraged, effeminate Ken Jeong, a baby, and Mike Tyson into the mix. Supposedly inspired by the time the groom went missing at a real-life bachelor party attended by producer Tripp Vinson, The Hangover plunges viewers into the sandy hell that is Las Vegas the morning after a night you can’t remember, with Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper frantically searching for their soon-to-be-wedded pal (Justin Bartha) while trying to dodge a gangster (Jeong) and solve the mystery of Helms’ missing tooth. Queried Kyle Smith of the New York Post, “Memento meets Old School? It’s party time.”

How to Murder Your Wife


A perfect example of the sort of unrepentantly sexist comedy we only could have gotten during the swinging 1960s, How to Murder Your Wife stars Jack Lemmon as a successful cartoonist who relishes his bachelor lifestyle — that is, until he wakes up the morning after a bachelor party and discovers, to his slowly dawning horror, that he married the stripper (played with vivacious brio by Virna Lisi). Of course, it isn’t that she’s a bad wife, it’s just that Lemmon’s character resents being domesticated, and will entertain thoughts of homicide to escape. “Believable or not, this stuff is funny just so long as one can go with the sour joke,” wrote a slightly incredulous Bosley Crowther for the New York Times, adding, “and that depends upon one’s tolerance of trivia and also, perhaps, upon whether one is a fellow or a girl.”

The Marrying Man


When Alec Baldwin gave that 2009 interview where he bemoaned his failure as an actor, he might have been thinking of this infamous turkey, which used a Neil Simon screenplay as a recipe for critical and box office disaster. Baldwin starred as Charley Pearl, a toothpaste heir who falls for a nightclub singer (Kim Basinger) during his bachelor party, quickly dumps his fiancee, and marries the new object of his heart’s desire — only to divorce her, remarry her, divorce her, remarry her…oh, you get the idea. The Marrying Man‘s staggeringly low Tomatometer speaks for itself, but it wasn’t all bad — Roger Ebert was one of the very few who liked it. “There’s more juice in the story than I usually expect from Neil Simon,” he wrote, adding, “the characters don’t just trade one-liners, but get under each other’s skins.”

Very Bad Things


Bachelor parties are supposed to be fun, right? Someone forgot to tell the guys in Very Bad Things, who end up — whoops! — killing the stripper (Kobe Tai). Despite what you may have heard about things staying in Vegas, the repercussions of the group’s actions quickly spiral out of control, with deaths and double-crossings piling up along the way. Things‘ pitch-black humor and almost wholly unsympathetic protagonists were understandably off-putting for audiences, who ignored the movie during its brief theatrical run — and while most critics were similarly unimpressed with its mean-spiritedness, Dwayne E. Leslie of Boxoffice Magazine was one of the scribes who wrote in its defense, saying that “the film wages a war against one’s moral senses in a story that’s unforgettable.”

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Hangover Part II.

Finally, here’s the trailer for Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation: