A comedy with a simple premise, and no marquee stars, blows up through strong word of mouth and good reviews to become the highest grossing R-rated film in history ($270 million as of this writing).
So, much like Let The Right One In, I had to blot out everything I saw or heard that raved about The Hangover so I could objectively review it myself.
• The big wedding day is near for Doug (Justin Bartha), but first he’s being taken to Las Vegas for his bachelor party by his groomsmen: party guy Phil (Bradley Cooper), henpecked boyfriend Stu (The Office’s Ed Helms), and odd, future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
• They check in to Caesar’s, then sneak to the rooftop for an amazing view of Sin City and a toast to the upcoming evening. Alan breaks out a bottle of Jagermeister…which, as those of you who have partaken can attest, is a sign that the evening is not going to end well.
• The rooftop scene fades, and we next find Phil, Stu, and Alan in their hotel room the following morning – with a chicken, a tiger, and a baby as guests. Also, Doug is nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, the groomsmen have no recollection of the prior evening, so they spend the remainder of the film backtracking their steps – and being confronted by all sorts of people from the night before, for reasons the guys can’t understand or remember.
I’m not going to pontificate about the cinematography, lighting, or mise en scene of The Hangover, since you probably just want to know: Is it as funny as everyone says it is?
In a word, yes. There are loads of hilarious antics, scenarios, and dialogue in the first hour alone – enough to fill three times as many of the so-so “best comedies of the year” we’ve been assaulted with recently. (I’m looking at you, Knocked Up.)
While credit for the comedy starts with the script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, a huge amount of the success rests squarely with Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis. Each one is perfectly cast in their role, playing an entirely different character from the other two – yet the trio interact amazingly well on screen.
Director Todd Phillips (the overrated Old School) does a great job of balancing the real and the ridiculous to create an ideal blend for an outrageously funny film. Naysayers may claim it’s all too unrealistic, but part of the beauty is that there is a chance, however slim, that the events of The Hangover could actually happen to these guys.
Some nits to pick: I can’t decide whether the appearance of Mike Tyson (as the owner of the aforementioned tiger) is funny or forced. Ken Jeong’s role as a gay Asian mob boss is clichéd, stereotypical, and worst of all, unfunny. And the way the guys finally find Doug (what, you thought they wouldn’t?) is a bit anticlimactic, compared to everything that transpired beforehand.
Like most comedies, the third act tapers a bit because plots need to be resolved, so time for comedy is sacrificed. But never mind: The Hangover is a very funny, unapologetic, un-PC, R-rated comedy starring grownups, about grownups, without a high concept. I haven’t laughed out loud this much since Superbad.
The Hangover is still playing in some theaters. I highly recommend you track it down, or be sure to check it out when it hits home video or On Demand. (And be sure to watch the end credits.)
Awesome post-script: To get The Hangover made with the actors he wanted, director Todd Phillips waived his salary and received part ownership of the film instead. With the movie’s killer box office, you probably don’t need a calculator to figure out it was a wise gamble. From Variety:
Because Phillips insisted on his cast, [he was given] a budget ceiling of $34 million, and the only way he could make that number was to work for scale and use salary and gross to buy his way into being an equity investor…That puts Phillips on track to earn $35 million or more on "The Hangover."
Like I said: awesome.
Will your kids want to see it?Doesn’t matter; they shouldn’t. While The Hangover is hilarious, it’s justifiably rated R. There are tons of F-bombs (amongst many other profanities), plus copious amounts of nudity, drug references, and several scenes of a baby in comedic distress. I’d say high schoolers should be the youngest age group for viewing The Hangover, and even then I’d say only upperclassmen.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?I would think The Hangover’s humor would play to both genders, but you’ll have to judge for yourself. Like I said earlier, it’s a pretty good balance of real-life comedy and outrageous antics. Look, it ain’t Hamlet; as long as she goes in looking for laughs and not high art, I think you’ll both like it a lot.
• Director: Todd Phillips
• Screenwriters: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
• Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham
• MPAA Rating: R (pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material)
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