‘Hangover’ Movie Writer Makes LCF His ‘Wolfpack’

No, Craig Mazin will not let his 11-year-old son watch “Hangover III.”
The movie — which was co-written by Mazin, the incoming president of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation — opens this week. It’s the final installment in the franchise that includes the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. The wickedly nefarious trilogy follows a quartet of friends on a series of comedic adventures.
“I think I know, as well as anybody, whether or not [he] should see this movie,” said Mazin, who also helped write the second of the “Hangover” films. “And the answer is, ‘No!’”
Lots of people have seen the movies, of course. Including lots of LCF residents.
“I sometimes worry because [this] is a conservative town,” Mazin, 42, said. “But I’ve never received any negative comments, no one’s ever scoffed. I think people understand: It’s a movie.
“And frankly, people’s taste in movies and [how permissive they are] in terms of their kids is more liberal here in town than my own. They’re even cooler than I am. In fact, they’re way cooler than I am.”
Mazin has lived in LCF for 11 years, attracted by the city’s small-town, community-minded charm. It was immediately apparent, Mazin said, when he and his wife, Melissa, ventured upon the Fiesta Days parade on a Memorial Day 12 years ago. “We looked around and went, ‘Oh yeah, this is pretty awesome,’” Mazin said. “It’s very quiet, calm, people are so nice. It’s Mayberry and I love it for that. Moving here was the best decision — the best decision — I ever made that didn’t involve marrying people or making lives.”
Mazin likes the anonymity in LCF, where no one in a town stocked with attorneys, accountants and rocket scientists is overly impressed by his career writing screenplays for major motion pictures.
And he loves the schools, which often are ranked among the best in the state. His children, Jack and 8-year-old Jessica, both attend Palm Crest Elementary, where their mom is the PTA president.
“There’s always one thing that is a little town’s beating heart, and in La Cañada, it’s the public schools,” Mazin said. “They are essentially why this town is great. No schools, no great town. Simple as that.
“La Cañada is not blessed by amazing natural resources. We don’t have the culture that Los Angeles has; we don’t have an industrial base. We have lovely houses, so we could be a nice bedroom community where people drive downtown and nobody would know each other or care. But why would people of means want to live here when they can just as easily live on a hill overlooking the ocean?
“The schools.”
Along with his money and time, Mazin has donated his specific skill set to help the La Cañada Unified School District stave off state-level budget cuts.
“He’s our master communicator,” said Deborah Weirick, executive director of the La Cañada Educational Foundation. “What Craig was able to bring to the table was that he took a lot of state budgetary jargon and boiled it down in laymen speak. His gift of words has been a huge asset to the foundation.”
“Craig has this uncanny ability of taking a complex subject and honing it down to a really clear message, almost a sound bite,” said Scott Tracy, president of the LCUSD Governing Board. “It’s really a gift — and then he backs it up.”
Mazin has arranged and moderated town halls and worked phone drives, never shy about asking his neighbors to chip in: “The $2,500 per family donation request is the ‘new normal,’” he wrote in a guest editorial that ran in The Outlook in 2011.
His efforts, and those of the foundation’s other 43 board members, have paid off. They’ve raised $2 million or more each of the past two years, doubling the previous annual donation total. Mazin said he expects the foundation will raise at least $2 million this year too.
The money will keep teachers aboard and class sizes small. It will fund drama and music programs, librarians and counselors. And, once the donation is made July 1, the money will be available as soon as schools are ready to spend it.
Mazin was educated in public schools in New Jersey and studied pre-med at Princeton.
“The theory was that I would go to medical school and study neurology,” said Mazin, who instead graduated and took off in his Toyota for Los Angeles.
A job at a small ad agency led to a ground-level position at Disney, where he got a year-long crash course in the movie industry. He read scripts, watched director’s cuts and observed how movies were marketed and politics were played. And then someone suggested he try to write a script.
The result was 1997’s “RocketMan,” a children’s movie with surprising lasting power, judging by the reaction of current film students who grew up with the movie.
Mazin has written nine films, including this year’s “Identity Thief” and the yet-to-be-released “Free Birds.”
But nothing has been as big a deal as the force-of-nature “Hangover” flicks — which features Mazin’s favorite character, the warped criminal mastermind, Mr. Chow.
“I could write Mr. Chow all day. ’Cause I am Mr. Chow!” said Mazin of Ken Jeong’s character, who audiences will remember leaping out from inside a car trunk wearing only black socks and wielding a tire iron in the first film.
“Well, not really,” Mazin said. “But in the darkest part of me is Mr. Chow. He’s akin to the way Greeks used to write gods into their dramas. People would move around and struggle with normal things — marriage and politics and life — and then a god would show up like a human and just mess with them. He’s perfectly anti-social, perfectly sociopathic and he loves to cause trouble.”
While Mr. Chow entertains audiences across the nation this weekend, Mazin will be with his family in Irvine, watching son Jack play in a baseball tournament.
“That’s the great thing about being a dad, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life,” Mazin said. “It’s like, ‘Baseball tournament — see ya later!’ It gives you perspective, just like living in La Cañada gives you perspective.”

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