Movie Review: The Hangover
According to Christopher Monfette of IGN.com, this is one Hangover that you won’t want to go away.
Almost more than any other genre, comedy is virtually critic-proof, completely and utterly subjective in the face of your own sense of humor. Nine times out of ten, a black cat leaping out of an alley will scare most people. More often than not, a weepy scene between loved ones parted by either distance or death will elicit an audience’s sympathy. But when it comes to comedy, unless there’s simply nothing of good, old-fashioned, laugh-out-loud value, anything beyond a guy slipping on a banana peel or taking a shot to the nuts – which are universally funny – is ultimately at the mercy of taste. And so, it turns out, the absence of funny can be measured; the presence of funny is entirely up to you.
With that in mind, if it were up to this critic, The Hangover would easily be praised as potentially the funniest comedy to hit theatres in the last few years. It’s been awhile since I remember having laughed this hard or having been so effortlessly amused by a movie, and where so many Bachelor Party-inspired comedies grab too quickly for the low-hanging fruit of nudity and vulgarity – neither of which are necessarily bad, mind you — The Hangover manages to create a clever mystery and real, honest-to-goodness characters in the midst of its many of shenanigans. And that’s a surprise, quite frankly, given what this Las Vegas-set comedy could easily have become, but despite a few pacing issues in the middle of the film, The Hangover rises above the trappings into which other, similar comedies have so often stumbled.
It’s the eve of Doug’s wedding, and so his two best friends, Phil and Stu (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms), as well as his fiancé’s slightly off-balance brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), take Doug for a wild night in Vegas prior to the big day. And before you can say “What could possibly happen!?” the s**t gets real. Cut to twelve hours later when Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in a luxury suite, sans Doug, with a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a stolen police car downstairs at the valet, and absolutely no memory of the previous evening. The big question is, “Where’s Doug?” but to answer that the gang has to retrace their steps from the night before, making The Hangover a kind of comedic mystery involving a hooker, an imprisoned Chinese mobster, a pissed-off Mike Tyson and an assortment of progressively stranger encounters. Also praiseworthy are the subtle, completely logical clues that the film provides the audience as to where Doug may have vanished, leaving the sharper-eyed viewers with a sense of accomplishment that they might have put things together before our main characters.
It’d be easy to simply set up an insane scenario, populating a room with animals and objects, and let the audience’s imaginations fuel the laughs – which, indeed, they do for the first portion of the film – but where The Hangover succeeds is in making the truth of what actually happened live up to the promise of the aftermath. That said, the film is admittedly funniest in its first half, but that director Todd Phillips and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore were able keep the back half as amusing as they did is as much a tribute to the film’s comedic chops as to the absolutely hysterical performances from Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis.
You’d be hard-pressed to name a better-matched comedy trio since Phillips’ own Old School back in 2003, but where Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn seemed like separate elements competing for the comedy crown, these hungover friends work seamlessly together to earn and support almost every single laugh. Cooper is the likable but smarmy, self-obsessed pack-leader who, despite his ego, undoubtedly loves his buddies, while Helms plays the brow-beaten straight man with the domineering girlfriend. Galifianakis, however, completely steals the movie as the eccentric Alan, who may or may not be developmentally challenged…Make no mistake, this is the movie that will pull Galifianakis from the realm of the cult comedian into the mainstream, but one wonders if playing awkward, quasi-simpletons isn’t simply his trademark shtick. If so, it’ll certainly limit how far Galifianakis can go as an actor and calls into question whether he could ever carry a movie as a lead, but he’s just so damn funny that we can’t help but hope that he has a long, successful career in cinematic comedy ahead of him.
The only real failing of the film is its second act, which suffers from some minor pacing issues, and a 15-minute lull where the laughs simply aren’t as abundant. And that the determination regarding just where Doug disappeared to ultimately comes from a play on words during a seemingly random dialogue exchange – rather than from a legitimate clue – seems a bit too easy, like the writers were looking for a quick way to shift gears into the third act. Thankfully, however, the third act stuff – which could have felt as if the film had given up or lost its steam – actually regains some of the comedic punch of the opening moments, culminating in a series of photographs that’ll have audiences howling riotously in their seats throughout the credits.
The Hangover could easily have been a cheap, crass, throwaway comedy, but with a great cast and a solid director, audiences are about to get one of the most bankable, legitimately hilarious films we’ve seen in quite some time. With a possible sequel already given the greenlight, we’re hoping that this same group can capture lightning in a bottle one more time.