The Hangover (2009) dir. Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham
I decided to wait a week after seeing “The Hangover” before writing my review. Though it made for enjoyable night out, in relation to it’s box office success, I could not help but feel a little underwhelmed. I think this had to do with the fact the trailer, which I had only seen once, spoiled virtually every surprise in the picture. So, needless to say, don't read this review if you haven't seen the movie.
And so with this time to allow the film linger and process itself in my brain, I can write this review.
The notion of the ‘Vegas’ bachelor party weekend has been done in Hollywood. “Very Bad Things”, Doug Liman’s “Swingers”, and even his follow-up “Go” all have attempted to encapsulate the ability of the sin city to turn ordinary people into debaucherous and irresponsible children. The “Hangover” tells essentially same story as these films with the hook being that instead of the actions, we just see the ramifications.
We meet husband to be, Doug (Justin Bartha), who is embarking on a road trip from LA to Vegeas with his fellow partyiers. His compatriots include best friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper), the good looking party captain who relishes the opportunity to escape the bludgeoning boring domestic lifestyle of husband/dad, Stu (Ed Helms), the conservative prude who is constantly emasculated by his overbearing girlfriend, and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the troubled brother-in-law to be of Doug’s.
After we see them toast their first drink on the roof of Caesar’s Palace, the film fast forwards over the good parts to the morning after. Their hotel room is sacked, a tiger is in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, Doug’s mattress on the roof, but no Doug. The hungover trio who have no memory of the night, and with only 2 days before the wedding, must piece together the evidence of the evening to find Doug with Chinese mobsters, strippers, and Mike Tyson all coming into play.
Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore use base characterizations to define their heroes. If the roles weren’t inhabited by any less talented comedians and actors, the film could have suffered the death of familiarity. As the boys retrace their steps the explanations don’t quite live up the absurdity of not having the information of recollection of their actions. For example when the source of the baby is revealed as well as Stu’s missing tooth, it all kinda make sense, and not as outlandish as the evidence would seem.
Where “The Hangover” triumphs is the cinematic attitude and character interactions of the three leads. Galifianakis is a revelation as a timebomb of insanity waiting to throw the group into another off the wall situation. His big beard, and unkempt personal hygiene is the showoff performance, but Cooper and Helms are distinct enough not to fall out of the picture.
Cooper has the screen presence to assume the leadership of the group, even though he doesn’t have much character development to dig into. Ed Helms’ journey from feeble yes-man to male vindication is the heart of the film. Ken Jeoung, that marvelous scene stealer from "Role Models" and "Knocked Up" again turns in another absurdly funny performance as the annoyingly mean Chinese gangster, Mr. Chow.
And if you thought Phillips made a mistake not showing us what actually happened that night, wait for the final credits, which adds a loud exclamation mark of enjoyment sending the film into the upper strata of hilarity. Enjoy.