The Hangover – Review

Some people just can’t handle Vegas

Director: Todd Phillips
Notable Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong

For director Todd Phillips The Hangover is a return to form. His last few features have failed to capture what made his second feature film, Old School, so special. And while one doesn’t usually associate the phrases “clever” and “smart” when it comes to a raunchy comedy filled with beer, boobs, and super outrageous situations, The Hangover is definitely that. The trailers and TV spots don’t do the movie justice, making it out to be another by-the-numbers farce with three friends treating another friend to a stag party in Las Vegas, giving him that last bit of freedom before holy matrimony.

Word of mouth will help this comedy make a great sum of money. I know this for two reasons. The first is that Phillips’s movie is nothing like the comedy abortion What Happens in Vegas with Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, even though an unplanned Vegas wedding does occur. The other reason is that aside from its absurdity and un-political correctness – a welcomed breath of fresh air in a summer full of sequels, prequels and whatever-equels – the movie has a great structure to it; it plays like a detective story where the MacGuffin is a missing groom.

So where to begin to describe the insane lunacy? This is like Three Men and Baby but instead of that guy from Cheers, Magnum P.I. and that Jewish guy, we have three groomsmen and a baby: Phil (Bradley Cooper), a cynical grade-school teacher, Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist who is kept on a short leash by his overbearing girlfriend (Rachel Harris), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), a doughboy with enough facial hair to fully support his nickname of “Fat Jesus.”

Two days before tying the knot with his fiancé, Doug (Justin Bartha) takes a quick trip to Las Vegas with the boys for a wild night of booze-fueled celebration. But with a night of heavy drinking we know what comes next: the morning hangover. Three of them awaken in their posh Caesars Palace hotel suite with little memory of the previous night’s events, and no explanation for how a tiger wound up in their bathroom and a baby in their closet.

An interesting twist is that we don’t see them engaged in their night of debauchery. The real fun is watching them attempt to piece together what happened in between the time of a Jagermeister toast on the roof of Caesars to when they awoke.

When it comes to comedy chemistry is an important ingredient that is sometimes overlooked in favor of star power and marketability. Forgetting Sarah Marshall proved this much. The combination of Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis is a strange mix that you wouldn’t think would click at all. But this is a good trio. You have Cooper as the face of the group: the straight man. Ed Helms reminds me of Alan Ruck’s Cameron character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; he’s a guy that can’t make any decisions on his own. Which makes his quick marriage to a stripper (Heather Graham) even more hilarious. Couple this with giving the stripper his grandmother’s ring, which he was going to give to his current girlfriend at Doug’s wedding. Zach Galifianakis is the third wheel, the odd man of the group. His mannerisms and comments make you question his mental stability, and because of his odd behavior he pretty much steals the entire flick.

Retracing their steps of the night before the journey dissolves into one riotous situation after another involving Taser-wielding cops, an effeminate Asian crime boss (played by Ken Jeong of Role Models) and Mike Tyson. That last one was a bold casting choice, and it’s not a brief here-and-then-gone cameo either.

The Hangover is truly a guys’ movie in the same way as Old School. Maybe it’s the lack of women and the unapologetic humor. Yet, it has a grounded sense of reality, even with the outlandish situations. It all comes back to the structure for me. Take out the wild comedy and add some more guns and you have an intriguing little neo-noir. But as a humorous mystery, Todd Phillips keeps the laughs coming as he slowly teases each little swerve. The entire journey is a rewarding experience that holds up in multiple viewings.

Oh, and make a point to stay and watch the credits. That’s all I’m saying.


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