Movie Review: ‘The Hangover’

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The Hangover Movie Review

Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper in ‘The Hangover.’ (Photo © Warner Bros Pictures)

I have no one but myself to blame for spoiling part of The Hangover experience by watching too many clips and trailers before seeing the film. If you haven’t yet seen every clip out there, I strongly suggest you hold off until after watching the movie. Although the trailer and clips don’t completely ruin the experience, The Hangover‘s one of those comedy’s where it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. That way the surprises are bigger, the pay-offs are much more hilarious, and the ‘what the hell oh no they didn’t’ moments – which there are a ton of – work on a grander scale.

The basic premise is a tried and true one. Guys take off for a rowdy weekend to celebrate the impending end of their buddy’s life as a single dude. But The Hangover explores everything that could possibly go wrong in such a completely riotous way that even what’s old feels new again. And even the jokes that don’t quite work are at least played out to the full extent. Nothing’s held back and no subject matter is off limits. And if you stay for the credits, you’ll see some things you may never have seen before in a big studio feature film. I’m not saying it’s stuff you’d necessarily want to ever, ever see again. It’s just different and even kind of envelope-pushing.

The Story:

Junior high school teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), dentist Stu (Ed Helms) and the wacky man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) join Doug (Justin Bartha) for a roadtrip to Vegas a couple of days before his wedding. Phil’s the unofficial leader of the group, Stu is the voice of reason, and Alan…well, he’s just plain weird. So this motley group checks in to Caesar’s Palace and makes their way to the roof for a toast to the impending loss of Doug’s bachelorhood. Flash forward eight or so hours and it appears as though all hell has broken loose in their hotel suite.

Stu comes to on the floor next to a chicken (why? we’ll never know) missing a tooth and without a single memory of how he spent last night. Same goes for Alan who, clad only in his undies, stumbles into the bathroom only to be forced into a fully awakened state by the appearance of a tiger. Phil’s in no better shape, although he does escape having a startling encounter with an animal as his first conscious thought after coming to. A chair is smoldering away, the place looks like a tornado blasted through it, Doug’s nowhere to be found, and there’s a baby – yes, a baby – in a closet. And not one of these guys remembers anything.

And so The Hangover takes off from there. Retracing their steps, the guys discover their time in Vegas was loaded with some of the most bizarre encounters and events imaginable. And if you haven’t seen the trailer, I’m not going to blow any surprises for you here by going into all the juicy details of their night on the town. Suffice it to say, their exploits symbolize what makes ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ such a powerfully important edict.

The Cast:

You know, there’s not a bad apple in the The Hangover bunch. Bradley Cooper’s usually the best friend or part of the ensemble and although this is also an ensemble piece, Cooper’s given more to work with here than in most of his previous films. Cooper takes full advantage of the opportunity, fully embracing the role of a married teacher who may look like a player on the prowl but who really is a dedicated family man just out for one night of unadulterated fun. Zach Galifianakis is annoyingly funny as a clueless guy with a surprisingly good heart hidden under layers of social ineptness. And The Office‘s scene-stealing Ed Helms is terrific as Stu the dentist, a guy who finds his orderly world turned on its head when he wakes up without an incisor and wed to a stripper. Of all the characters in The Hangover, it’s really Stu you’re empathizing and connecting with. You want him to grow a pair and get rid of his harpy girlfriend (played by Rachael Harris), and you root for him to come out of this weekend nightmare stronger for having gone through the experience.

The Hangover also benefits from some strong comedic performances in supporting roles including Bartha as the missing for most of the film groom-to-be, Heather Graham as Stu’s stripper wife, Ken Jeong (seen naked in the trailer) as the film’s villain, and Mike Tyson as Mike Tyson. Who knew the heavyweight had a sense of humor and enough acting ability to not make a fool of himself onscreen?

The Bottom Line:

The Hangover has a Judd Apatow-esque style to it and blends well the raunchy comedy with screwball antics and a little heart (contributed by Helms’ character, Stu). It’s also got some surprisingly difficult and hilarious action scenes that you wouldn’t expect from a comedy about three hungover guys in Vegas.

A baby, a tiger, a chicken, and Mike Tyson (no, that’s not the beginning of a ‘So, a…walked into a bar’ joke) contribute a lot of absurdity and laughs to this over-the-top R-rated comedy directed by the guy who brought us Old School. The Hangover‘s nutty, naughty fun that never takes itself the least bit seriously.

GRADE: B+

The Hangover was directed by Todd Phillips and is rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.

Theatrical Release Date: June 5, 2009


-By Rebecca Murray

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