The Hangover (***½)

Posted on June 27th, 2009 in Commentary,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
We call this "The Loser Bench"

We call this "The Loser Bench"

It would not be possible for me to recommend “The Hangover” highly enough.  This movie is laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end, and is driven by the script, the story, and the situations, not by “stars”.  Hollywood has gotten lazy about making deals instead of making movies, and have developed a pattern of putting A-list stars into films with mediocre scripts and huge advertising budgets, and just expecting us to show up because we don’t know any better.

Well, now you know better, at least about this film.  Parts of it are raunchy, but that’s not its purpose – the raunch is essential to the plot.  And the plot sounds hackneyed, but it is *not*.  This is the story of four friends who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor weekend to send off one of their group.  They plan to spend the night doing anything and everything, and then leaving it all behind because what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

The film starts conventionally, setting up the four main characters – Phil the school teacher (Bradley Cooper), who feels trapped by his wife and family and thinks nothing of pilfering his students’ field trip money to embiggen his Vegas stake; Stu the dentist (Ed Helms), whose harpy girlfriend is the distillation of every man’s worst nightmare; Doug the groom (Justin Bartha), the nice guy marrying the nice girl and whose nice families are nice; and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) the…the…cipher? …the…uh…weirdo? …er…pedophile? …um…genius??  Well, Alan is a puzzle as it’s hard to describe a man who is legally restricted from getting with 200 feet of a school (or a Chuckie Cheese), who learns card counting from a book and scores a bundle at the tables, who wonders if Caesar ever really lived at Caeser’s Palace, who blames Al Qaeda for society’s intolerance of masturbating on a commercial airliner, and who actually seems like a nice, if misunderstood (or un-understandable) guy.

These four borrow the prospective father-in-law’s classic convertible Mercedes and head across the desert to get their groove on in Vegas.  After they check-in to the hotel and do Jäger shots on the roof, the story flashes forward to the next morning, when Phil, Stu and Alan wake up to a Gordian knot of repercussions from the previous nights festivities.  Their $4,000/night suite is a wreck, a rooster struts and clucks among the carnage, there’s a baby in the closet, a tiger in the bathroom, and Doug is missing (and so is one of Stu’s teeth).

The rest of the film is the story of them trying to remember what happened so they can find Doug and get him to the church on time.  They piece the night together from clues and guesses, and retrace their steps on their quest for Doug.  And their path was long and winding, as well as outrageously hilarious.  I won’t go into any more details, but let’s just say that the movie deserves a second viewing, if only to catch the things you missed while you were laughing.

And it’s always nice to see the birth of a star – Zach Galifianakis shines throughout this film, in such a way that you can see that he has vaulted up the Hollywood pecking order on the strength of this performance alone, and should be able to leverage this appearance for a long and prosperous career, if that’s what he wants.  He doesn’t exactly steal the show, because the show is outrageous and over-the-top to begin with, but he definitely shines the brightest.  And the other central players should also see career boosts from this, although maybe not to the degree of Galifianakis.

Put it all together and you have a movie that is both intelligent and stupid, and is a true laugh riot.  Note that if you are easily offended by…well…anything, then you may want to skip this movie because there are a lot of offensive things in it.  However, they are not done for shock value, they flow naturally from the characters and storyline – but they are no less shocking.

And stay for the credits. 🙂

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