"Hangover II" no headache for Thailand
Sunday 26 June 2011
With scenes of drunken sex in sleazy strip clubs, raucous bar fights and close shaves with gangsters, you might think Thai tourism bosses are worried "The Hangover Part II" will be bad for business.
But the only surprising thing about reaction to the worldwide box-office hit in Thailand, where it is set, seems to be that nobody seems very, well, surprised.
"After seeing the movie... Ummm.. This is how foreigners see Bangkok... it's so true!" according to a post on Thailand's biggest web discussion board Pantip.com which summed up the general feeling of viewers.
The production, the sequel to a 2009 blockbuster which made stars of comedian Zach Galifianakis and actor Bradley Cooper, follows a group of friends on a drunken bachelor night out through Bangkok.
It follows the same formula as Las Vegas-based "The Hangover" as Stu, Phil and Allan wake up to discover the brother of Stu's fiancee missing and try to remember what happened during their alcohol-fuelled exploits.
The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand is confident viewers will realise the film paints an exaggerated - if not wholly inaccurate - picture of a city famed worldwide for its wild nightlife.
"Nobody wants to see the negative side of their country, but we have to admit that it is true. If we could choose we wouldn't show that in a movie," Suraphon Svetasreni told AFP.
The film is not all about rolling around in the gutter - it also features scenes in the stunning seaside setting of Krabi on Thailand's Andaman Coast, as well as roof-top bars in Bangkok and boat rides along the Chao Phraya River.
"I think this movie might be good for Thailand. It may help draw more tourists to Thailand after they saw those beautiful scenes in Krabi," said Suraphon.
For sure, some of the wilder sights such as a cigarette-smoking, drug-dealing monkey are not things most visitors to Bangkok are likely to encounter.
But the city's red-light districts - where scantily-clad girls dance on stage and touts compete to lure visitors into shows involving bananas and ping pong balls - are firmly on the tourist trail.
And groom-to-be Stu - played by Ed Helms - is unlikely to be the first man to have unknowingly had sex with one of Thailand's infamous "katoeys", or "ladyboys".
"Obviously the film looks mostly at the dark side of Bangkok, but pretty much everything portrayed does happen here, so in a sense it's not inaccurate," said Joe Cummings, author of the Thai edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook.
"Few visitors would see all of that in one visit but as I recall the filmmakers did the same thing for Las Vegas in the first film. I wouldn't expect a dark comedy such as this to do anything less," he added.
Some tour groups are already offering "Hangover II tours" including a boat trip along the Chao Phraya River as well as the temple and sky bar featured in the film, rounded off with a visit to a strip club.
An optional extra is to walk a tiger like boxer Mike Tyson, who had a cameo role in the production.
One reason why Thais might not be particularly offended by the film is that the shady characters, such as go-go bar owners and gangsters, are foreign, whereas the main Thai characters are relatively wealthy and successful.
It's a contrast to another hit movie which ruffled a few feathers with locals - Tokyo-based "Lost in Translation" - which portrayed many of the Japanese characters as somewhat weird.
While "The Hangover Part II" did receive some critical reviews in Thailand, the main concern for some is the geographical inaccuracies, which see the stars speed on a boat from Bangkok to the Andaman Coast, which in reality would require a long journey around the Malay Peninsula.
"I'm worried only about one thing... foreigners may misunderstand that they can ride a boat from the Chao Phraya River to Krabi!" wrote one viewer.
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