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The Hangover

Released: 2009

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 1 hr 40 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Todd Phillips

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor

Three groomsmen lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken Vegas adventures, and must retrace their steps in order to find him.

An entertaining comedy that makes people laugh and feel good. Now that is what I call something special.

Review by: shaunhenisey

Added: 7 years ago

There is something that is nice about a movie that knows what it is and does not take itself too seriously. The Hangover is one of these films. Here is a picture that does not strive for greatness- it just wants to make you laugh. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married in two days to Tracy (Sasha Barrese). His best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) decide to take Doug to Las Vegas for a night of debauchery- an extended bachelors night to celebrate male freedom before Doug is forced to succumb to marriage, that great mystical journey that men take that somehow castrates them. As an offer of diplomacy (and charity) Doug agrees to take his soon-to-be brother in law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) on the trip- this decision will come to haunt him mere hours later.

If you are reading this you probably know the plot. The four men (boys?) get wasted and end up waking up the next day with a killer hangover. As Stu, Phil and Alan awake they discover themselves in a 4200.00 a night destroyed hotel room, a live chicken, a crying baby stuffed in a closet, and a Bengal tiger in the bathroom. To make matters worse, Stu (a dentist) loses both an incisor and an engagement ring (or, more appropriately, his grandmother’s “holocaust ring”), Phil has a hospital band around his wrist, and no one has any idea where the hell Doug is. All of this happens in the first twenty minutes of the movie. From this point on, the film is a non-stop comedy, placing our three heroes in bizarre situation after situation.

I think it is fitting to point out that a lesser film would have included the bachelor party, and ended with the gentlemen waking up in a hotel room. The “Bachelor Party picture” is as cliché as the romantic comedy. The Hangover works so well because it keeps the party off of the screen. The film works, on a certain level anyway, like a mystery. We become invested in the story because we actually do want to know where Doug is, who the baby belongs to, and where the hell the tiger came from. The journey takes us to some strange places, but one thing is certain, we never stop laughing. This is one of the best broad comedies in years. Even when I wasn’t laughing out loud at the film, I always found myself smiling about the plight of the characters. As someone who has had his fair share of crazy nights, I can picture some friends of mine getting themselves into these types of situations.

The film is another in a long line of “bromantic comedies” surrounding men and their desire to escape maturity. It is not necessarily the best (that would be “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”) but it is one of the funniest and most accessible. The film is certainly profane (four letter words aplenty) but it is not as lewd as some of the other films that have hit theaters recently. While nudity and nonstop sex jokes definitely don’t bother me (I have a vivid imagination) they can prevent certain comedies from being enjoyed on a universal level. The Hangover is funny not because of its willingness to gross us out, or push the R rating even, but because it has genuinely funny situations and characters.

While I will not say that the heroes in The Hangover are the most complex to ever grace the screen, they have enough depth to make them interesting. Stu is a cuckold who has a cheating girlfriend (the hilarious Rachael Harris) who treats him like trash. He dresses like she packed his clothes for him and is forced to lie about going to Vegas. This is not necessarily a caricature; I have seen countless men in similar situations- lacking the self confidence to stand up for themselves. Phil, the leader of the group, could have easily been the most one-dimensional character in the film, yet for some reason we understand his need to escape from the confines of his life with his wife and child. As pleasant as adulthood may be there is always a side to most men that wants to go crazy and be free, if even for one night.

Then there is Alan. The real discovery in this picture is the great Zach Galifianakis playing the child like buffoon. Galifianakis’s performance as Alan will be this generation's Bluto. I may be overreacting, but I think the performance is Oscar worthy. What makes Galifiankis so funny is the fact that he plays Alan completely straight. When Alan asks the concierge at Caesar’s Palace if Caesar actually lived there, we laugh out loud because the look on Alan’s face is so innocent and earnest. If you have seen the movie, watch it again. This time pay close attention to the Galifianakis’s performance. He could be in a drama he plays the character so deadpan. There is not a moment of over-acting in the performance, only exceptional comic timing and the ability to play completely dry. Alan has the film’s best lines, but it is only because Galifianakis makes them the best lines through his delivery. Mark my words, twenty years from now people may not remember the intricacies in the plot of The Hangover, but they will remember Alan- just like no one remembers anything else that happened in National Lampoon’s Animal House, but they remember John Belushi’s Bluto. They are both iconic performances.

The director, Todd Phillips, has a gift for situational comedy. His Old School was one of the funniest films of the decade, and here he surpasses himself. While one can give credit to the screenwriters, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, for the jokes and situations, it is Phillips who directed the actors and knew when to cut, and what takes to use. He is by no means the best comedic director working today (that would be Judd Apatow) but he is the best at this type of broad comedy. I think this is why I didn’t include The Hangover in my recent “Best of” list for the decade. In hindsight, it was a mistake. Here is a film that you really don’t appreciate on the first viewing. I remember watching the film for the first time. My wife and I laughed, and when it was over said “that was a funny movie” and went about our business. We watched it again recently, and this time I knew the gags were coming so I was able to pay more attention to the performances, direction, and choices. It was on this second viewing I discovered the brilliance of The Hangover- it is a movie that completely and totally knows what it is and what it’s about. It is not trying to be a “comedy with heart” or a “message movie.” Phillips, along with the cast, just wants us to enjoy ourselves. There is not a love story tacked on for female audiences, or a touching moment of bromance at the end, it is just the story of four misfits in Vegas. A weaker director would have insisted on developing themes, or adding a heartwarming moment. I kept expecting a scene with Tracy leaving Doug and then Doug winning her back, or some nonsense. It never happens. This is because Phillips is confident in his direction and his decisions. He doesn’t care what the movie could be; only what it is- an entertaining comedy that makes people laugh and feel good. Now that is what I call something special. Now if only I could figure out where the hell that chicken came from.

NOTE- There are many surprises in The Hangover. I have failed to mention appearances by Heather Graham, Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson. These actors are wonderful and are in the movie because they fit. Could you imagine anyone else?