When you wake up with a hangover following a night of excessive partying, there is the chance that you might forget a few things you said or did to someone. Providing you did not cause any permanent damage, these intoxicant-fueled actions prove to be forgivable. But if one of those actions is losing the man of honor during his bachelor party, with no recollection of how it happened, that is another matter entirely.
It is also the scenario of the raunchy new comedy, The Hangover. Directed by Todd Phillips and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, The Hangover revolves around a quartet of men who head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party two nights prior to a wedding. There’s the groom Doug (Justin Bartha), his wannabe-cool best friend Phil (Bradley Cooper), the geeky, hen-pecked Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug’s future brother-in-law, the very strange Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
All starts off well, with the quartet doing Jagermeister shots on the roof of Caesars Palace toasting the night ahead as a bachelor party they will never forget. The next morning reveals the aftermath from a night no one can remember. Doug, Stu and Alan all slowly awake in their ransacked hotel suite; one now filled with livestock, burnt furniture, inflatable sex dolls, a baby, a tiger and one missing man of honor. With the wedding fast approaching, the trio, via a series of items that serve as clues, attempt to trace their steps that might lead to their friend. Their search brings them in contact with the Vegas police, a really fey Chinese gangster, an escort (Heather Graham) who may have married one of the boys, and former pugilist Mike Tyson.
Much like Phillips’ other two R-rated raunch-fests from this decade, Road Trip and Old School, The Hangover is a lewd, ratings-pushing (courtesy of some end credit photos) laugher that proudly wears its stupidity on its sleeve like a badge of honor. While neither Trip nor School could qualify as high – or any type of – art, they were both very entertaining comedies whose success was largely due to a director and cast whose comic timing overcame the rather routine storylines.
The Hangover is more of the same, which is meant as a compliment. The screenplay by Lucas and Moore, the writing geniuses behind Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases, is filled with stereotypical characters and a story that always goes exactly where you would expect it to. But it also has enough of a working concept to give the film the slightest bit of a fresh spin. It also has a consistently funny barrage of un-PC one-liners guaranteed to piss off at least a certain amount of the audience at any given time, always a plus in my book.
Those two story aspects are enough for Phillips and his cast to build a successful movie off of. As with his other efforts, Phillips’ pacing keeps things moving along well enough over the screenplay’s predictability, rough patches (namely in the sequences that bookend the movie) and occasionally overused jokes, such as the ones involving the tiger. He does what he can with the film’s concept, yielding results slightly less successful than he does when soliciting drawing from his talented trio of lead actors.
Cooper, Helms and especially Galifianakis work remarkably well together and display some solid onscreen chemistry. While Cooper and Helms play straight men to Galifianakis’ brain-dead party animal a majority of the time, they both deliver enough solid laughs without being overshadowed by their co-star, who steals the film practically every time he is onscreen. Bartha is in the film far too briefly to make any sort of impression other than being a well-groomed MacGuffin; Heather Graham pops up for a little eye-candy here and there, while former boxing champ Tyson’s cameo is okay at best.
Gleefully stupid and offensive, you might not remember much of The Hangover the next morning, but you certainly will not be rue the day that you sat down to watch it. As moronic as they get, it is a lewd but innocuous laugher that does what every comedy should but often fails to do: make the viewer laugh on a consistent basis for roughly 90 minutes.