The Hangover

The Hangover

Film review by: Witney Seibold

The Hangover

I’ve seen a t-shirt, usually worn by obnoxious fratboy types, which features a stylized drawing of a bride and a groom. The bride is smiling, and the groom is frowning. The caption to this drawing is “Game Over.” It’s a t-shirt that expresses the typical male’s fear of commitment, but, more so, the typical male’s idea that marriage is going to be the end of a certain breed of fun. Luckily for these guys, there’s always Las Vegas. Vegas touts itself as a city where one can get away with most anything, legal or not, and males can have a few moments of unimpeded fun, away from their female counterparts who would likely intrude. Why don’t they ask permission, explain what they want to do, and have open communication with their girlfriends/wives? Guys don’t talk about that, man.

The four main characters of “The Hangover” come from this ethos. On the eve of Doug’s wedding, four buddies decide to head to Las Vegas for a wild few days of vice and general iniquity as a bachelor party. Doug (Justin Bartha) is anticipating the time there. His best friend Phil (Bradley Cooper from “The Midnight Meat Train”) seems to be the leader of the pack. Stu (Ed Helms) is so seriously henpecked by his controlling girlfriend that he has to lie to her about where they’re going, and has made up an elaborate story about staying in Northern California. The brother of the bride, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is also along for the ride, and it’s been hinted that he’s a drug addict, a pedophile, and perhaps even functionally retarded. That he wears a Grizzly Adams bears and a sizable paunch doesn’t make him any more charming.

The four of them take shots of Jagermeister on the roof of their Vegas hotel. We then skip to the next morning, and they cannot remember a thing from the night before. They now must piece together what happened, and explain some of the distressing evidence left behind. Most notably amongst the evidence: a chicken, a missing tooth, a tiger in the hotel room, a missing mattress, a human infant, and, most notably, a missing groom-to-be.

The story unfolds like a comic version of “Memento,” giving us bits of fact, and subtle reminders. I liked that, even though these men were all overgrown adolescents, they tried to behave responsibly; they don’t do anything stupid in their investigations, and try to keep on task. This is a brilliant way to tell a story, and a great way to depict a comedy. Director Todd Phillips (director of limp comedies like “Old School” and “Starsky & Hutch”) actually manages to keep things wacky and fun, but still kind of grounded. He gets from his actors real guys in over their heads, rather than types who behaves the way fratboys ought to; the aforementioned frattiness of the characters comes from a real-life need of real-life men, and not from some stale well of frat-like character types.

Well, Galifianakis notwithstanding. He seems to be playing the entire film for laughs, and not acting. It was when he was underplaying his manchild role that things went well. When he awkwardly hugs another character while wearing nothing but a jock strap… well, that’s just Farrelly-Brothers-level grossout.

“The Hangover” has made millions upon millions of dollars, and a misguided sequel is already in the works. Is it a million-dollar comedy? No. But it is smarter than you’d expect it to be, and very funny, even hysterical at times.

Published in: on August 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. very well written review!

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