Hans here with a review of the soon to be comedy hit, The Hangover.
After seeing the first trailer for The Hangover, I couldn’t have been less excited about the movie. The bachelor party joke has been done to death and it just seems like such an easy, obvious set up for raunchy comedy. Nothing in the trailer, aside from the Mike Tyson air drum solo to “In the Air the Night,” looked remotely appealing.
Sometimes being wrong feels so much better than being right, and The Hangover is a prime example of why. This movie rocks from start to finish. These guys understand how cliched their premise is, but instead of burying their heads in shame, they set out to make the best bachelor party movie ever. This film understands itself, and few things are better than a simple premise done really, really well.
Four guys head to Vegas for a bachelor party. A night of extreme partying ensues that leaves three of them with their memories completely annihilated. No one can remember where the fourth guy, the groom, has gone or been taken to. This is bad for business seeing as the wedding is scheduled for the day after. So the three pals have to go on a day long odyssey trying to piece together their drunken steps from the night before, hoping to uncover some clue that will lead to their missing comrade.
Simple, easily told. Where The Hangover gets things right, and what sets it apart from crap examples of this type of comedy, is in the unique personalities of the three lead characters. Phil (Bradley Cooper), is a smarmy school teacher who doesn’t think twice about swiping permission slip money from his students to pay for the Vegas trip. Stu (Ed Helms) is a dentist trapped in a crap relationship. His girlfriend (Rachael Harris) is a complete bitch who beats him (“that was only twice and I was out of line” Stu tells Phil). And Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the bride-to-be’s brother, is an overweight, bearded slob who seems to specialize in saying really awkward, sometimes rather pervy things.
These three train wrecks set out with the groom, Doug (Justin Bartha), the nicest and most responsible of the group, for a wicked night of drinking and seem to get that times 1000. The state of their $4200-per night Caesar’s suite the morning after is an image for the comedy ages. We get a burning couch, a chicken, a lost baby in the closet, Stu missing a tooth, Alan sans pants (“find some pants,” Phil tells him, “it’s a little wierd that I have to tell you twice”), and a tiger in the bathroom who we later learn is owned by Tyson.
Their search for Doug provides the structure for the rest of the movie, as they pick up clues of the previous evening’s events and visit the old high and low points along the way. Along the way, they encounter a helpful stripper (Heather Graham), a small, very angry Chinese man in their trunk, many thugs with bats, a dark discovery in a Vegas wedding chapel, and eventually Tyson, who forces the guys to bring the tiger back to his estate. Armed with only red meat and a few tablets of Rufenol (which Alan mistakenly used to drug everyone the night before; he thought they were ecstasy), they undertake the deadly (and utterly hilarious) task.
Director Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School) is playing with comedy fire here. This movie could so easily turn into one silly misadventure after another, each one more ridiculous than the last, until it resembles something closer to a Roadrunner cartoon than a studio comedy. But Phillips has chosen his actors well, and they bring surprising weight to characters who could so easily be played as simps or stooges.
Bradley Cooper does a pretty convincing job of playing a dick (if you saw him in Wedding Crashers, you understand what I mean) but he also conveys the angst of a married father/schoolteacher who so desperately wants to return to the hedonism of the frathouse. Ed Helms, unknown to me before this, brings a kind of loveable despair to Stu; you can’t help but smack a hand to your forehead when he reveals that he wants to propose to his bitch girlfriend, using the logic of “we’ve been together for three years. This is just what happens.” And Zach Galifianakis brings a strange mystery to Alan; we never find out exactly what his problem is, and we aren’t sure we want to. There is an endearing quality to his child-like behavior though–you sense that he has no idea what he is saying most of the time.
I think I’m underselling the fact that this movie is just really fuckin funny. I admired it a great deal for taking a tired premise and breathing new life into it, but at the end of the day, the laughter is what counts, and The Hangover doles it out in spades. One classic moment and then I’ll shut up. In the “In the Air Tonight” scene, Tyson tries to warm the boys into singing the song with him, and there is one perfect moment of the three guys singing the “hold on” line in perfect unison. I can’t wait to get this DVD and watch that moment over and over again. It is comedy gold. Can you ask for anything more?