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The Hangover (2009) ***1/2

November 20, 2009

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written by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore and Todd Phillips & Jeremy Garelick (both uncredited)

produced by: Todd Phillips & Daniel Goldberg

directed by: Todd Phillips

Rated R (for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material)100 min

U.S. release date: June 9, 2009

DVD/Blu-Ray release date: December 15, 2009  

 

This is easily my favorite comedy of the year! I don’t see many comedies cuz most of them just don’t cut it for me. The humor is often weak and their plots interchangeable. This movie is something else entirely. It’s not that a film hasn’t been made before about a bachelor party but the story’s execution and the cast sets it apart from anything else. Seeing as how writer/director Todd Phillip’s (“Old School”) film, budgeted at $35 million has made $460 million to date, I’m obviously not alone when I proclaim this film rises high above all the other current comedies this year. That’s a huge thing for an R-rated comedy.

The day before the wedding, school teacher, Phil (Bradley Cooper), worrisome dentist Stu (Ed Helms), and insane, future brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) take their best friend Doug (Justin Bartha) to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. Their plan is to indulge in a night of drunken debauchery they will never forget. Well, they do forget it. All of it. Practically the entire night is lost to them as they wake up in their trashed hotel suite to find a tiger, a chicken, a baby, a missing tooth, and a missing groom. Aimlessly trying to backtrack, the trio attempt to figure out what went down using whatever clues they stumble upon. They find out they not only stole a police car but also property of Mike Tyson’s that he wants returned immediately.

 

 

They also must contend with others preventing them from their mission. We are as surprised to meet Stu’s new wife, Jade (Heather Graham), as he is as he tries to evade calls from Melissa (Rachael Harris), his controlling girlfriend. Then there’s the trouble they get into with an Asian gambler (the hilarious Ken Jeong), not to mention calls Phil has to make to pacify Tracy (Sasha Barrese), Doug’s confused fiancée. It wouldn’t be a Vegas film though without a star cameo and the one provided by Tyson (having himself a roller coaster resurgence this year) has some funny/awkward scenes that add additional outlandish elements. After all they go through in search of their friend, the audience is ready for anything.

I wasn’t crazy about any of Phillips other films, but here he seems to have found dead-on humor through perfect performances and copious amounts of absurd ridiculousness. None of the actors are afraid to get a little out there for their roles and it was refreshing to see that the story didn’t rely on too much raunch (let’s face it, it’s been overdone) except if you consider the silly closing credits. Phillips delivers a erratic whirlwind trip through blinding-daylight discoveries and throbbing-headache disbelief, worthy of the film’s title. He really puts these guys through the ringer with hilarious disasters, casino mishaps, and extreme stupidity, while cherishing the art of the surprise.

 

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All they wanted was a night of freedom from their suffocating lives and we’re reminded that in Vegas that is rarely acquired without a cost. The work from Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis (playing uncomfortably close to his stand-up comedy persona), profits from fearless approaches to their roles that straddle the line between crude and nightmarish yet at times awkwardly endearing. The road to Doug sends this trio on their own bewildered journey as they can’t quite grasp (or recall) the enormity of their evening, often stumbling upon insurmountable trouble they can’t believe they caused.

This film is one that should be discovered knowing very little coming to it. It needs to be experienced with no advance knowledge, if possible. It’s best valued as a series of consecutive surprises, with hilarity surprisingly enhanced the unexpected, supported by a soundtrack of fun, ironic tunes to accompany any and all ludicrousness (an appropriate Danzig tune opens the film). While the script and direction is smart and clever, the film succeeds due to the three creative leads bringing a unique approach to these emasculated men. “The Hangover” is a hilarious (how many times can I type that word in one review?) adventure that wipes the sheen off Vegas, bringing it back to the reckless abandon it’s known for.

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    January 29, 2010 9:04 am

    hmmm….I had no desire to see this before. Like you,I tend to stay away from comedies because it seems like they are just crude and juvenile and not very ‘smart’ anymore.

    Let me ask you a question. I reluctantly went and saw “There’s Something About Mary” only because too many people kept saying how good it was even though I just knew I was going to hate the humor. While the humor was indeed the type I do NOT usually enjoy, I found myself laughing hysterically over and over again, and feeling very guilty for it. Somehow, that movie managed to turn that ‘type’ of humor on it’s head. I don’t know why, I can’t put a finger on it, but I loved the movie, and I should have really hated it. Is that what this movie is? One of those types? Because really, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it could be good.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      January 29, 2010 10:41 am

      I tend to stay away from comedies cuz they are usually dumb or talk down to the audience. A script can still have a brain and be funny without going south. Due to my aversion of Diaz and Stiller, I’m not a big fan of “There’s Something About Mary” but I’d say this one isn’t as raunchy or gross as that Farrelly brothers movie. I really enjoyed the characters here and even felt like I knew some of these guys. Sure, outrageous things happen to them but the acting is never really over-the-top.

      • windi permalink
        January 29, 2010 3:49 pm

        well, if it was neither as raunchy or as gross as Something About Mary, I’ll take your word for it that it’s a must see. 🙂 There’s been very few good comedies out there lately….

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