Here’s a French farce along the lines of “The Hangover,” where the bachelors — instead of Vegas — venture to the scenic, sinful “Wild West” of Budapest, Hungary.
The twist here is that two guys fed up with their MBA desk jobs take the advice of a 50something expat stripper who said of her home city’s hedonism, “It’s not hard to get in. It’s impossible to get out!” They resolve to set up a bachelor party/travel agency that takes Frenchmen about to marry to a place where it’s “anything goes,” and “vodka’s cheaper than Coke (Coca Cola).”
“Budapest” is a comedy that goes for “giddy gonzo ‘Hangover’ romp” and settles, entirely too quickly, for tedious. A couple of “out there” laughs, one of them right before the closing credits, is what you get for your 100 minutes of investment.
Still reading? OK, here’s the plot.
A busted bachelor party where the lads, led by Arnoud (Jonathan Cohen) and Vincent (Manu Payet), are denied entry to a swank club, gives these two an epiphany. They are never going to be “in the club,” hanging with the high-rollers.
But the aged stripper (Tamar Baruch) who lapdances on them at the dump where they wind up talks up Budapest. That sticks in their minds as their work bludgens the life right out of them. Over some protests from their wives (Alix Poisson, Alice Belaïdi), they decide to set up “Crazy Trips,” a bachelor experience in Budapest.
The film’s first act is mostly the two guys’ scouting trip to the city, with the stripper’s son-in-law Giorgio (Monsieur Poulpe) as their trippy tour guide and intermediary.
Giorgio is an homage to a rich tradition of crazed locals leading innocent foreigners through the crazier corners of a strange land. He’s like a Hunter S. Thompson version of the Ukrainian guide played by Eugene Hutz in “Everything is Illuminated.” Never seen it? Rent it. It’s better than this.
You want hookers? Giorgio offers up his wife (Henrietta Edvi) in a French maid’s outfit. No? Then let’s see what else we can stir up for your guests’ “experience.”
One of the best sequences in “Budapest” is the guys’ hallucinogenic trip through an “Eyes Wide Shut” of lurid clubs — “That’s Wolf Blitzer’s favorite seat!” — depravity, prostitutes, drugs and general hedonism. But Vincent is more impressed with the prices of everything — massages, hotels, booze, “the world’s longest Humvee limo.”
“It’s Berlin,” he chortles (in French with English subtitles, if you wish), “but FREE!”
The guys come up with some distinct touches which they pass off as “The Hidden Pleasures of the East.” Want to shoot all manner of Eastern Bloc army ordnance? Drive a tank? THIS is the bachelor party trip for you!
It’s just that the script, co-written by co-star Payet (Vincent), then gets bogged down in the logistics of it all, how this “real” business would work — the debacles that turn into international (news) incidents, learning the maxim attributed to P.T. Barnum — “There’s no such thing as BAD publicity.”
The story also dwells on the cost all this sophomoric, sexist “fun” has on actual relationships — with their wives, and between the two partners.
BO-ring. Perhaps necessary as an obstacle the characters must overcome, but still BO-ring.
The things that go wrong aren’t on a par with the shenanigans of “The Hangover,” the “shocks” aren’t shocking enough and the skin — after a while — becomes just wallpaper behind a lot of unfunny scenes or moments.
The French comic Poulpe, as Giorgio (or Georgio), is the life of this party. Watch him blithely supervise the first clients, blazing away on a makeshift firing range as shell casings bounce off his shirt. Listen to him encourage the haggling the grotesque tank and machine guns owner Gabor (Arthur Benzaquen) wants to do over how much “extra” he’ll charge should they actually want to “kill somebody.”
His starting position, BTW, is 800 euros.
“Budapest” strikes me as a comedy that could have worked, with snippets and snatches, here and there, coming off. But the structure is all wrong, the pacing deathly slow and not everybody pulls his or her comic weight.
Build an 85 minute movie with Giorgio and his funny wife and Arnoud (Cohen has the funnier partner to play, and is funnier in playing him) and we’ll talk.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, drugs, nudity, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Manu Payet, Jonathan Cohen, Monsieur Poulpe, Alix Poisson, Alice Belaïdi
Credits: Directed by Xavier Gens, script by Manu Payet, Simon Moutairou. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:43