Film Review: The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover (2009)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Rated: R
Rating: 3 (out of five)

The Hangover

I had little to no interest (closer to no interest) in seeing this movie until I watched the Golden Globes.  People had recommended it, but they also recommended other comedies that turned out to be only mildly amusing.  Then the Golden Globes played a clip during their broadcast …

Stu: She’s got my Grandmother’s Holocaust ring!
Alan: They gave out rings at the Holocaust?

I still can’t really explain why, but that moment is extremely funny to me.  So I rented it.  And very much enjoyed it.

Doug is getting married.  So Stu and Phil throw him a bachelor party in Vegas.  Doug’s fiancée’s brother, Alan, tags along.  When they wake up, severely hung over, Doug is missing and no one can recall what happened during the night.  The story really is that simple.  There is nothing more to it.  The best situational comedies are simple.  Look at “Seinfeld,” for instance.

We start with a terrible phone call from the best man to the bride – a bloody, dirty, tired, and worn out looking best man, calling the pampered, immaculate looking bride.  Phil tells her there’s no way the wedding is going to happen in five hours.

Flashback 48 hours earlier to beginning of the escapade.  We meet Phil (Cooper), a teacher, ready to get out and let loose.  We meet Stu (Helms), a dentist, tied down by an over-controlling girlfriend who is thoroughly very pleased that the bachelor party isn’t happening in Vegas (he tells her their going to wine country).  And Alan (Galifianakis), Doug’s soon to be brother-in-law, who is his own kind of loner (“a one-man wolf pack” who definitely provides the most awkward moments of the flick).

They toast on the rooftop of their hotel, then head down to the streets.  When they wake up the next morning, Doug is gone, the hotel room is trashed, chickens peck around through the mess, a tiger is trapped in the bathroom, and a baby is found in a closet.  Oh, and Stu is missing a tooth.  That’s only the start.

The trio begins a long hunt for their friend by working backward through the night’s events, trying to find out where Doug went by discovering where the tiger came from and why Doug’s tooth is missing and who’s baby that is.

I can’t say that this movie is great character study, or extremely well written.  But it is hilarious throughout.  What makes it rise above other generic comedies of late are the characters.  They actually have personalities and problems, and the night’s events provide a form of therapeutic treatment for them.  The characters feel real, not created simply because a comedic moment was needed.  The comedy comes from this sense of sincerity.

You care a bit about each.  Will Phil grow up and quit stealing kids money?  Will Stu shed his girlfriend and spread his wings?  Will Alan’s wolf pack ever grow?  You even care a little bit if they find Doug or not.

From these characters comes dialog that is witty and genuine.  It doesn’t feel like it’s pieced together from comedy cliché’s and predictable reactions.  Of course it’s there to get a laugh, but the character isn’t saying this line simply for the laugh.  The line comes from the character, from the story, driving the plot forward.  It’s a strongly written film.  Because of this, it easily rises above.

It’s hard to call a movie about a killer hangover smart, but this one actually is.  It’s getting rare to see a mainstream comedy that is these days.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLo_ik_f2Pk

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