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The Hangover

Before Doug disappears: Zach Galifianakis (in t-shirt), Justin Bartha (as Doug, in white shirt), Bradley Cooper (in black shirt), and Ed Helms (in glasses) in "The Hangover", directed by
Todd Phillips.  (Photo: Warner Brothers)
They've Gotta Get Out Of This Place, If It's The Last Thing . . . (But Where On Earth Is Doug?)
By Omar P.L. Moore/     SHARE
Friday, June 5, 2009

Todd Phillips' film "The Hangover" succeeds not because it is a great story but because its actors and its visual style both contain the energy and sense of adventure to make it a winning comedy caper combining juvenile behavior with nods to several lovable films.  As a consequence you end up loving the absurdity and randomness of the film, which harkens back to movies like "Pulp Fiction", "Rain Man", "Casino", "Three Men And A Baby", "Sideways" and even last year's pathetic Vegas adventure starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, among others.  Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, "The Hangover" is smart, fresh and filled with funny one-liners throughout. 

Four men in their late-thirties head to Las Vegas to purge themselves of whatever virtue they have left and enjoy a 48-hour-Sin City bachelor-like vacation full of debauchery and misadventure before one of them is to be married.  The problem is that none of them can remember what on earth happened during their time in Vegas, hence the line "whatever happens in Vegas . . . ".  Mired in Sin's Dustbowl they try to piece together the events of one wacky night and find it impossible.  They do remember that one of their friends has gone missing however, and the film spends much time chronicling the search for Doug (Justin Bartha) who just happens to be getting married in Los Angeles within a few hours.  Can the trio of friends (Phil, Stu and Alan) find Doug and get him to the church on time?  "The Hangover", which doesn't have to be coherent all the time as its title implies, turns into a mystery and maintains an audience's interest because it ceases to be static, instead becoming more alive and outrageous at every turn.  Some of the film's situations are so bizarre, ridiculous and insane that you can only gasp in disbelief or jaw-dropping amazement -- and riotous laughter. 

The male buddy comedy romp in American films has become stale over the last few years, and even though Hollywood has paraded many a movie of this ilk ("American Pie", "Superbad", "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Pineapple Express"), "The Hangover" bursts the bubble and stands alone because it is more intimate and tightly structured, full of wild and unpredictable events, memorable characters and doesn't try to be anything it is not.  Pretension is stripped away and the spirit of "Animal House" and other free-wheeling, uninhibited comedies of the past return.  Rarely is a misstep made here, and even when "The Hangover" is in danger of running out of gas or sense, you can count on one of its talented actors involved to do or say something that snaps the film back into overdrive.  It's a road movie, a series of accidents, speed bumps, and an illustration that life offers us some of the craziest scenarios and weirdest people, especially as you get older.  I personally can tell you about some of the weirdest human beings that I've ever known or come across -- and Los Angeles or Las Vegas aren't the cities where I've met them -- but could I conjure up something like "The Hangover" and make it both appealing and entertaining despite its incorrectness and incredulity?  Maybe, maybe not.

"The Hangover", which opened across the U.S. and Canada today, has its assortment of stereotypical behaviors and caricatures, but unlike other films they are strategically placed and not merely displayed for your gawking pleasure (or displeasure).  Each behavior is used to advance the plot or display red herrings that enhance the bizarre or buttress the elements of disbelief and haziness of memory justifying the film's title.  Simplicity works, and Mr. Phillips adheres.  Some of the stereotypes -- the nagging wench of a wife, the racial caricatures of menace or lack thereof are well-worn if not mildly offensive -- don't work as well yet they again manage to fit within the context of the zany, foolish and scandalous entertainment that the film exhibits.  There are cameos (if you've seen "The Hangover" trailer then you know whom to expect) that make the film even more wild and wicked.  Its humor doesn't stop, even during the end credits, which are almost as funny as the nearly-two hours that have preceded them.

With: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris, Mike Epps, Jernard Burks, Rob Riggle and Cleo King.

"The Hangover" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.  The film's running time is one hour and 45 minutes.  Watch those end credits!

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2009.  All Rights Reserved. 


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