September 4, 2009

The Hangover (2009)

IT WAS HARD – really hard – to ignore the success of The Hangover.

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.

Plot:
• 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.

Critique:

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.

Rating:

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.

Hello...AAA? You're not gonna believe this.

The Hangover
• 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)


Buy The Hangover for less at Half.com >>
Netflix >>

5 comments:

Gemma said...

Gosh, I didn't even have time to comment on your last review about a Fish Tale, which looks adorable, by the way, and here you go with a new review! How prolific of you!

Well, I can almost hear you belly-laughing at "The Hangover," so I'm certain your dad will, too. It's on our short list! Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Geof said...

I'm glad you liked The Hangover because my favorite summer movie. My wife and I saw it opening weekend and we never laughed so hard watching a film. The soundtrack was excellent and I can't wait to own it on Blu-Ray...which may be a long time because I think it is still in the theaters.

Will the Filmmother want to watch it? Of course! My wife and her friends are now madly in love with Bradley Cooper. So you are right about both genders liking it.

I wrote a review about it a while back and the love of this film still carries on all these months later. Great review!!

James (SeattleDad) said...

Sounds like a great review. I am putting this one on my list. I just saw 'I love you, man' which I hadn't heard of and we both liked it.

mr. nichols said...

this was one of the funniest moves i had seen in a long time. i agreed with almost everything in the review. but i really like the tyson cameo. i don't feel like the performance was overdone and that look of disgust he gives is classic. the funniest part to me is the "wolf pack" speech. i got that whole thing memorized.

Keith said...

I want to see this. My brother and some buddies have seen this one. They all loved it.

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