Movie Review for The Hangover

Frat Boy Fun

The Hangover

Comedy | R-13 | 1 hr 50 min
Warner Bros. Pictures
The opening credits for The Hangover suggest a very different movie. They paint a much more foreboding vision of Las Vegas, suggesting a sense of palpable dread underneath the glitzy veneer of neon lights and fountains. But The Hangover doesn’t actually touch on that at all, preferring to stay well within the boundaries of movie frat boy buddy humor. Thanks to some fantastic performances from a couple of soon-to-be comedic superstars, though, the material is brought to new heights, making The Hangover a perfectly palatable experience.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to get married. Along with his two buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), and his odd soon-to-be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), he goes to Las Vegas to have one last night of bachelor debauchery. But after a toast on the roof of Caesar’s Palace, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in their suite with no memory of what happened. Their room is trashed, Stu is missing a tooth, there’s a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and worst of all, Doug is gone. The three are left to reconstruct the events of last night, and figure out where the missing groom has gone.

The plot combines elements of Very Bad Things (minus the murder) and Dude Where’s My Car? (minus the aliens), and it does so relatively well. The script isn’t very ambitious, mostly bringing the characters from one gag set piece to another, never really trying to be novel or particularly clever. The plot moves rather mechanically, any conflict resolved almost magically in third act revelations. The characters are painted in broad strokes, their true depth never really explored. That said, The Hangover is solidly funny, and the script holds together well enough for what it does. The movie is packed heavy with gags, enough that even when something doesn’t work, there’s another gag just waiting around the corner that just might get you. Director Todd Philips has a tendency of staying a little too long in some of his scenes, but for the most part he keeps things light and speedy, all the while giving nods to classic frat boy and Vegas films all at once. He mostly lets his actors do the work for him, and it turns out that in this movie, that was the best decision of all.

There are two names in this cast that really stand out. First is Ed Helms, already beloved by fans of The Daily Show and The Office. Helms’ character is the most fully realized, though he doesn’t seem to be written that way. He’s oddly sympathetic, both in his impotent rage and his surprising tenderness, giving us a character to root for. Second is Zach Galifianakis, whose off-kilter demeanor allows for a few surprises in a largely predictable tale. Galifianakis’ comedic instincts are just phenomenal, his delivery just dead on perfect every time. Bradley Cooper plays a decent straight man to these, too, but he’s clearly upstaged. Many people will remember this film for Ken Jeong as well, though he really does go for some cheap laughs.

The Hangover is fine for what it is. In a time where comedy appears to be trying to grow up, Todd Philips has produced a film that, much like his previous work Old School, revels and in fact celebrates how fun it can be to be immature every now and then. And thanks to some great comedic performances, The Hangover manages to be a whole lot of fun. If anything, this should be seen for Helms and Galifianakis, who have been comedy’s next big thing for far too long. Now, they got the chance to shine, and they did.

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