What Offensive Photo from ‘The Hangover 2’ are Ebert and Roeper Talking About?

General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon
Photo: Eddie Adams

In case you don’t know what I’m referring to, at the end of The Hangover Part II, just like the first film, there is a photo montage of what really went down during the forgotten night the film revolves around. Among the debauchery on display there is what appears to be a recreation of Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning photo you see above. Two characters from the film (I’m sorry, I don’t remember which characters they were, maybe someone can help us out in the comments) recreate the photo with one holding a gun to the head of the other. It’s brief, but I saw it and I wasn’t alone, though reactions to the photo seem to vary.

When I saw it, I thought to myself, Nah, that couldn’t have been an example of the Hangover boys mocking one of the most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War in which a man was actually killed. After all, The Hangover Part II takes place in Bangkok, 612 miles from Ho Chi Minh City and it has nothing to do with the Vietnam War so why recreate the photo? I guess I was in denial because former “At the Movies” duo, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, weren’t as quick to dismiss the photo.

Ebert writes in his review, “[The Hangover Part II] is a raunch fest, yes, but not an offense against humanity (except for that photo, which is a desecration of one of the two most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War).”

In Roeper’s video review he says, “The most offensive and gutsy joke in the movie is a Vietnam War visual reference that takes place over the closing credits.”

I guess I could argue against both guys in what is most offensive when it comes to The Hangover Part II as it really matters what group you belong to. I’m sure Asians and transsexuals will also have a thing or two to say about some of what takes place in the film as much as defenders of the photo. Taking everything into consideration, however, I have to wonder, at what point does offensive become funny? Alternatively, at what point is something so offensive that people need to stand up and fight back? Is The Hangover Part II so offensive it deserves resistance?

If box-office numbers represented opinions it would mean The Hangover Part II was a unanimous success and everyone got the joke. The film opened to a massive $31.66 million yesterday, a record opening for a non-animated comedy and third best Thursday opener in history behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and The Matrix Reloaded. The film is predicted to potentially hit $125 million over the course of the five-day weekend. If it is deemed “offensive” by the masses will the overwhelming success be loud enough to shout down any detractors? Taking it even further… is it really all that offensive?

I can certainly see arguments for why it would be offensive, but I’m not sure it’s offensive to the point it’s worth making a fuss over. However, it wasn’t necessarily I who was offended as much as I thought a lot of it simply seemed mean-spirited and in bad taste, or to put it differently, stupid and not funny. As circumstances in this instance would have it, it’s easier to stand on my side of the street when you’re not personally attacked, so I’d be interested in hearing from those that may have taken exception to some aspects of the film.