Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha
Directed by: Todd Phillips
The Hangover could have been a problem for Warner Bros. The studio gave the film a full cinema release despite it having many of the hallmarks of a straight-to-video release: too many C-list actors with several D-list celebrity cameos. The comedy is off the wall and the general plot is kind of the stupid. Todd Phillips pulls a rabbit out of his hat because despite all these telltale signs, The Hangover is a surprisingly funny movie. It’s amusing and witty in ways it has no right to be. It can be a bit stale at times and there may be a couple of scenes that pretty much force you to roll your eyes, but the film is quite enjoyable nonetheless.
This is the story of a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly wrong. Doug (Justin Bartha) is taken to Vegas by a couple of friends on the eve of his wedding. They’re having a great time living it up in Sin City. The boys decide to have a drink on the roof of the hotel and then the next thing we see is Stu (Ed Helms) passed out on the floor of their destroyed hotel room. Neither Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper), or Alan (Zach Galifianakis) have any idea what had happened the previous night nor can they find Doug who is supposed to get married the same day. They try to desperately retrace their steps as they keep finding out how more and more bizarre their evening was. Escapades such as Stu getting married at a drive-in chapel to a stripper and the boys breaking into boxer Mike Tyson’s house are only the tip of the iceberg. As the clock gets closer to the wedding, the guys become more frantic in their search for Doug and their way out of Vegas.
One of the film’s weaknesses is the character development. While it shouldn’t be a major issue in a zany comedy, it does hamper the experience a bit since this one deals with the maturing of the central characters. A core problem is the script, which lets the actors improvise a little more than they should be allowed. The other major problem is the limited range that the actors have. The whole romance angle with Helms’s and Graham’s characters is bad both because it’s written horribly and they are just poor actors. Meanwhile, despite Cooper’s character being poorly written, he shows much more depth in this movie than he has previously and does a remarkable job with what he’s given. Any revelations that are supposed to come as a shock concerning a character’s motive or profile are not all that surprising and telegraphed from miles away. The writers and filmmaker did not do a good job at creating a piece where the characters can naturally evolve.
Luckily for The Hangover, the film is not about character development and delivering an epic story; it is about having lots of laughs and a good time. The comedy in the movie can be quite sharp which is a testament both the writing team as well as the talents of Galifianakis and Helms. Both actors gave it all to deliver the most from the material they were given as well as adding to it wherever they could. Cooper helps too by playing everything cool rather than try and stand toe-to-toe with the other two and try to be a comedian, even though he comes across as a naturally funny guy. Even Mike Tyson shows more effort in this movie than he has shown in the ring since he was world champion. The cast really wanted to give a good performance and nobody underdelivered.
The film also does a good job at delivering joke after joke without all that many feeling lame or tired. Each character has their own unique style and they mesh together very well. There are times that some of the antics and scenes walk the fine line of being very funny and something even Comedy Central would reject (which is saying something). However, overall, very few jokes cross into the latter territory. There are even times where you may feel like you know the punchline to the joke as it is being set up but you’re still laughing anyways. The whole scene with the tiger in the hotel room after the wild night is hilarious even though half the time you know what is going to happen next. The film is clever like that in the sense that it plays out like a friend telling an out-of-this-world story rather than a fictional piece of story writing.
Todd Phillips’s The Hangover is a lot of fun but it’s far from perfect. It can be lame at times and Graham probably was a bad choice, and there were some annoying camera techniques but otherwise the movie is quite hilarious. It’s an easy film to recommend if you don’t get offended easily. Even if you don’t offend easily, it probably would be a wise idea to avoid the final credits.
This post was originally published on this site in November 22, 2009. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes and film stills were added for this revision.