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  The Hangover

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis, Justin Bartha, Mike Tyson

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Produced by: Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg

Written by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Distributor: Warner Bros.

     Todd Phillips’ The Hangover is a straightforward comedy and, as such, it doesn’t really need reviewing, but I’ll proceed anyway. If you thought the trailers were funny, you’ll probably like the movie. If it’s a laugh-count you want from me, here are the facts: I audibly chuckled 12 times and smiled several more, but was never confronted with a big belly laugh extending for over 10 seconds. Given I maintained this mental tally during The Hangover and have discussed the movie in such calculated terms, it should come as no surprise when I tell you I wouldn’t have been angry had the projector conked out halfway through. But I didn’t object to anything in the film, other than perhaps its gleeful depiction of the consequences of drug-use. (Then again, showing the consequences period makes it more enlightened than the usual fare, right?) For me, this is a classic “HBO movie” – amusing when boredom strikes in the middle of the night, but otherwise nothing special. Others’ funny -bones may disagree, and in this case I’m perfectly fine with that because, I reiterate, there was nothing in The Hangover I patently disliked.

     The premise is simple. Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) is about to be married and he and friends Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Stu Price (Ed Helms) and brother-in-law Alan Garner (Zach Galifiankis) head to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. (I’ve used their full names to echo a point Roger Ebert made about the Justin Long character in Drag Me To Hell: why do these guys need last names at all?) But before the night kicks into full gear, the film cuts to the next morning. Doug’s groomsmen wake up in their Caesar's Palace suite, only to find the place completely trashed, with a tiger roaming around and a baby in the closet. They’re too hung-over to remember anything that happened, let alone where Doug is. Desperate to find him so they can get him back to L.A. in time for the wedding, they begin a journey that leads them to confront a singing Mike Tyson, find a pissed off Asian man trained in martial arts (Ken Jeong) in the trunk of the police car they stole, and meet a ditzy stripper (Heather Graham) who might have married one of them.

     The set-up lends itself well to laughs, but somehow The Hangover seems less funny because of this. It’s pretty easy to write wacky jokes and situations involving a group of thirtysomethings who get thrashed out of their minds. This is especially true when The Hangover goes for complete broke: sure, Mike Tyson’s presence is funny, but when would it not be funny to put the former boxer in a substantive role that begins with him belting out a Phil Collins song? The same goes for the outrageous images in the end-credits. Leaving the film, I felt like I personally could have made an equally humorous product out of the story, and for me that cheapened the laughs I had. But others will take the film for what it is and enjoy it thoroughly, and once again I’ll make it clear that I’m not here to stop them. The Hangover features the kind of comedy that’s subjective enough for there to be some range of viewer opinions, but its construction—from pacing to character-development—is solid enough that one couldn’t argue that it’s terrible

     Beyond the written gags, the viewer’s opinion on The Hangover will depend heavily on their response to each performance, as is the case with any comedy. For me, Zach Galifiankis is the only member of the cast who really excels. He nails the spacey brother-in-law-to-be with a questionable past, providing just the right amount of awkwardness and offbeat acuteness to make the character fascinating in his absurdity. Cooper and Helms, on the other hand, are unmemorable. The former actor gives a performance that’s so generic he practically blends in with the Vegas scenery and the latter basically plays his most recognized role (Andy Bernhard from TV’s “The Office”) minus the self-absorbed edge. One out of three is not a desirable ratio. But, hey, the supporters often pick up the slack: Tyson, Graham, and Jeong all boast their own respective laughs. This sense of variety, for me, sums up what The Hangover is ultimately about: intermittent, episodic amusements fleshing out a reliable, but not earth-shattering concept. In a bleak economic climate, it’s no wonder why droves of Americans have already flocked to theaters to enjoy the picture’s sheer exuberance.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 6.13.2009

Screened on: 6.5.2009 at the Reading Carmel Mountain 12 in San Diego, CA.


The Hangover is rated R and runs 100 minutes.

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