“Chris, I have bad news,” my email starts. I’m sitting in front of my computer, and my room is a mess. My face is dimpled and red. “I messed up,” I continue, “I really messed up. There might be no movie review next week.” I’m about to hit send. My head is hung in shame.
One hour earlier.
I woke up in a dark movie theater in a cold sweat. The theater was empty. My arm was draped over one side of my chair, and my face hurt from being pressed against the cloth seat for the last two hours. From my lips hung a long line of spittle, and I wiped it away with the back of my hand, then propped myself up. The theater was a mess. Popcorn scattered on the floor. The screen in front of me was blue, the final frame of the reel before the lights come on. Whatever had happened during the movie, I couldn’t remember a thing. I shook my head. It ached horribly. My cheek was bumpy with the cloth impression, and I wondered if it would ever return to normal. All of a sudden I heard a noise behind me and I jumped. I might have let out a squeak.
The cleaning crew came into the theater. Three teenagers, two girls and a boy. Two of them swept the mess into a dustpan while the third picked up trash out of the cupholders and off the seats, throwing it into a garbage bag. I tried to motion to one of them, but he ignored me. I cleared my throat. Still nothing. Finally, I got up.
My knees ached. I checked my pockets. Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. Cell phone? Yup. Other cell phone? Still there. Then I found a slip of paper. It was a credit card receipt. It must have printed before my tickets. No information that would be useful. I checked my other pocket, but found nothing.
“Hey man, can you tell me what’s going on? Where am I?”
The kid with the garbage bag looked at me like I was crazy. At first, he thought about ignoring me and picking up more trash, but he could see I was serious, and starting to panic.
“You’re at the movies. You’re in Allen, Texas. You have to go, buddy. The movie is over.”
Over? I missed it? Or had I seen it? I couldn’t remember. I started towards the doors. Through the lobby, I tried not to make eye contact with any other patrons. I was embarrassed for what just happened, but I couldn’t remember why. When I opened the door to leave the theater, the light was blinding. My eyes stung. I reached into my shirt pocket to pull out my sunglasses.
A small slip of paper was snagged in the rubber nose thingies. My ticket stub! Finally a clue about what had just happened. I turned it over. It said “The Hangove.” The Hangove? I don’t remember a movie called The Hangove. Then it occurred to me. The Hangover. The ticket machine had cut off the last bit. I had just seen The Hangover. I shambled to my car, trying to piece together whatever clues I could remember.
I remember dudes having a bachelor party. One of them was an outsider, and the main characters, the less hairy ones, clearly don’t like him, but they let him tag along anyway. They start with a drink, then wake up in a mysterious place. There’s a wild animal on the loose.
No, wait. It starts with a phone call. It starts with a flash forward. The guy from Alias, he’s on the phone, saying that they messed up, and the wedding was off. Then they flash back. Way back. Man, I hate that plot device. There’s hardly a show on television that doesn’t use that device to excess (I’m looking at you, House).
Lots of running around. More violence than I expected. A gangster. I remember Ken Jeong, that guy from Community. Oh my God, was he naked? Did I really see him naked?
Somebody is lost. They have to find him. No wedding without him. The dude from the office is there, and his face is really messed up. Zach Galafinakis, that’s the hairy guy they all hate. He drugged them. It’s all his fault. More violence. More gangsters.
It’s all coming back to me. Bits and pieces. Had I slept through the movie, or did I actually see it? Did one of the register jockeys slip something into my Coke? I felt woozy.
Rich father of the bride. Ed Helms cheating on his significant other. Unnecessary and awkward Mike Tyson cameo appearance. Everything checks out. I had just seen The Hangover. But that doesn’t make any sense. The Hangover came out two years ago. Why would they be showing it in the theater again? Wasn’t there a sequel coming out? Maybe that’s why. They wanted to drum up hype for the sequel. I think they did the same thing with Star Wars. Had they changed the Hangover? Did Teddy shoot first this time?
Wait, that doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t a guy named Teddy. It was Doug. Who’s Teddy? I got into my car. As I put the car in reverse, I checked the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of my own face. Oh. My. God.
Somebody drew male genitalia on my face in permanent marker. Right on my forehead. It was horrible, but it would wash off. That isn’t what shocked me. What shocked me were the flashbacks.
I saw naked men everywhere. Naked men playing with monkeys. Naked men with female torsos. Naked men all around, and laughing. People are laughing? Laughing at naked men? I don’t get it. I’ve seen naked men. I went to summer camp. Is that all it takes? A guy strips down to the buff, and everybody laughs. I have to write this down. This is comedy gold.
In my head, I’m humming the theme from the musical Chess. Everything is turning to waste around me, but decide to stop and get a soda. I drink it casually. I smile. It’s like I either don’t realize how much trouble I’m in, I don’t care, or I can’t act my way out of a paper bag. How am I going to write this review? I can’t remember the movie. I must have been drugged. Or I fell asleep. I had a dream I was watching the first Hangover movie again, but this time with lots of naked men. And people are still laughing. I start writing out my email to Chris, telling him that I won’t be able to deliver a story.
“Chris, I have bad news,” my email starts. I’m sitting in front of my computer, and my room is a mess. My face is dimpled and red. “I messed up,” I continue, “I really messed up. There might be no movie review next week.” I’m about to hit send. My head is hung in shame. Then, suddenly, I perk up. I hit discard and the email disappears. I found it, I know what to do.
I’ll just write a review of the original Hangover, and people will think it’s the sequel. I’ll throw in the naked men, and they’ll laugh, just like in my dream. I know it was set somewhere exotic, like Viet Nam, so I’ll just throw in some weird bars and some monks and a bunch of people who don’t speak much English but still get violent. Then, at the end, I’ll talk about the pictures that flash onscreen during the credits. An even worse plot device, because those pictures should have been the movie itself, instead of the garbage I apparently slept through.
Everything is going to be okay. After all, the movie looked so bad in previews, so obviously derivative of the original, there’s no way anybody will go see it. I’d be surprised if it even grossed a million dollars in its opening weekend.