The Hangover is a breathless stroke of comedic genius; one of those movies where, when it comes out on DVD and you have a bunch of friends over, you won’t be able to watch just one scene. In what seems like a tight 100 minutes we have a ridiculously off-the-chain party, a stray tiger, a stray baby, and a run-in with Mike Tyson, among other things. While the film does lose steam a bit towards the end, the setup and subsequent first two acts are nearly flawless. Summers these days are usually filled with safe cinematic fare, but The Hangover provides a killer, raunchy time.
It’s finally the weekend and finally time for Doug’s (Bartha) bachelor party. He, along with groomsmen Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms), and Alan (Galifianakis), are off to Las Vegas for a crazy night. It’s first class all the way: they rent the $4200-a-night Villa Suite at Caesar’s Palace, down a few shots of Jager on the roof of the hotel, and head out for the night. Fast forward twelve hours. The suite is trashed, a tiger is in the bathroom, a baby is in the closet, and Doug is missing. Unable to remember anything, Phil, Stu, and Alan must retrace their steps from the previous night and find Doug in order to get him home in time for his wedding.
The odds of halting laughter during the first hour are very slim. Director Todd Phillips (most known for the 2000 comedy Road Trip) and his writers have concocted the most consistently funny set of gags seen onscreen in years. The film effortlessly plays on its pseudo-mystery (what the hell happened last night?) and most of the revelations are funnier than you’d expect. Once the antics in Vegas slow down and the guys must return the film slows down, but a closing photo montage more than makes up for it.
The cast is uniformly fantastic. The show-stealer is Zach Galifianakis, a comedian whom I first saw on Late Night with Conan O’Brien earlier this decade. This role should bring him to the forefront as he locks in on the very strange character of Alan. A sequence in which he is tased deserves to be shown on a loop on monitors at the airport; simply classic. The work by Cooper, Helms, and Bartha (despite his limited screen time) is superb. Also worthy of mention is Ken Jeong (remember “The King” from Role Models?) He’s simply fearless here and earns every laugh.
The Hangover is, hands down, the best comedy of 2009 thus far. While it is plenty raunchy, even it doesn’t go to the places it could have. Whether that is a detractor will vary from viewer to viewer, but I think the filmmakers were trying to hanging on to at least some of the female demographic. As far as the sub-sub-genre of bachelor party comedies goes, The Hangover is as good as it gets.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.
Theatrical Release: June 5, 2009
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese