"The amount of penises on screen is at a new level," one talent manager told THR. "It's pretty crazy." The presence of male genitalia is nothing new to R-rated comedies. The MPAA allows them on screen as long as they aren't erect. But previous mainstream comedies that mined the member for laughs, from Porky's to Borat to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, apparently don't hold a candle to how often the "device" is used in The Hangover II. And that's in addition to numerous scenes depicting drug use and extensive explicit language.
According to The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog, "Hollywood insiders say the film may set a new standard—or a new low depending on your opinion—for full-frontal male nudity in big-budget studio films." Director Ivan Reitman—no stranger to the raunchy comedy himself—told THR that The Hangover II could forever change the standard of propriety in film, including what directors will be able to get away with in the future: "It's a last-frontier thing. 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."
Audiences and critics could discern a shift it the level of raunch and obscenity that became commercially viable after The Hangover. A comedy about sex buddies certainly would not have been as frank or explicit as No Strings Attached before The Hangover—and there definitely wouldn't have been two such films on the subject (Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis's Friends With Benefits is expected to take the conceit even further). As Bridesmaids proves, being called "The female Hangover" and echoing that film's raucous content is smart marketing.
In his review, Roger Ebert asks, "Is this some kind of a test?" The film, he says, "plays like a challenge to the audience's capacity for raunchiness." With The Hangover II expected to earn a huge box office return, the audience capacity for such content appears to be there. The Hangover is raising the bar for R-rated comedies again. Mainstream films will only continue to get bluer.
But in her review of the film, The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday wonders, importantly, whether taking things even further directly translates into more laughs. "Summer wouldn't be fittingly launched without a go-for-broke raunchy comedy, the kind of uncensored, emotionally expansive movie where pleasure can be found not just in the taboos it gleefully smashes but in its celebration of friendship, emotional growth and sundry humanist values," she writes. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have that movie: It's called Bridesmaids."
It appears "an astonishing array of male genitalia" may not always be a good thing.