When it comes to reviewing comedies, I’m never really sure what to write. Do I try and emulate the level of humour in the film by writing a zany article littered with one-liners? I mean, if I could do that, I’d be writing the films and not reviewing them knows what I sayin’. I suppose I could just tell you whether or not the film is any funny, and in my opinion, Todd Phillips‘ The Hangover very much is. However, whether or not you and I agree depends on how hilarious you find the sight of a grown man being tased in the face. If the mental image that popped into your head inspired a small, slightly guilty chortle – please continue reading.
The Hangover has a beautifully simple/terrifyingly relatable premise: Four buddies head to Vegas for the bachelor party of a lifetime and wake up the next morning with no memory and a trail of destruction in their wake. Oh, and the foursome is now a threesome, with the groom having been misplaced at some point during the evening. Of course, few still-living humans can claim to have enjoyed as wild a night as the boys in The Hangover, but even the most innocent of us have a semi-similar story to report. I can recall at least one evening that ended in the incredibly ill-advised waxing of my own stomach. But that’s another story for another time…
Our heroes include morally bankrupt schoolteacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), passive-aggressively whipped dentist Stu (Ed Helms) and the psychotic, unpredictable man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis). The lucky groom-to-be is Doug (Justin Bartha), an all-around nice guy, who in the real world would never be caught fraternising with these three loonies. Phil is desperate to spend a weekend away from his job, his wife and his kid, and is looking forward to a night of debauchery. Stu meanwhile has to tell his truly unbearable partner (Rachael Harris) that they are heading to the wine-country, just so he can get permission to leave the house. Alan … well, Alan is a whole other story. He is Doug’s future brother-in-law, and is invited along for the festivities despite the fact that he is suffering from clearly debilitating emotional issues. This is not the kind of guy you want around when you’ve got a massive hangover.
So the fellas head to Vegas, share a rooftop toast above their hotel, and time skips forward to the next morning, which we’ve already seen in the trailer dozens of time. I refuse to divulge any further information on the plot of this film. A lot of the laughs (and there are a lot of them) come from the never-ending stream of surprises and escalations in ridiculousness. One of my guests had not seen a single item of promotional material, and seemed to enjoy the movie more than anyone else in the audience (who were already laughing heartily for the entirety of the film). I highly recommend going into this film blind, just to keep some of the surprises from being ruined. Oh, and being a 21-year-old male will also really help you to enjoy this flick.
Yes, it’s a bit of a boys-own adventure, and there is less for the ladies to enjoy than say, a Judd Apatow flick like Knocked Up, which has equal amounts of fart and heart. The Hangover is 99 minutes of dumb guys doing dumb things and being physically and emotionally punished for it. The film completely lacks any satisfying emotional arc for any of the major character’s, and it doesn’t really bring anything new to genre, as say Observe and Report did (which I’m still not convinced is actually a comedy). However, that’s not to say that The Hangover isn’t an excellent film. It’s more consistently funny that most comedies from the past decade, and director Philips brings a unique and highly appealing visual style that makes the ride that much more enjoyable. The picture also moves along pretty quickly, keeping the potentially episodic structure from feeling tiresome.
Most importantly, the cast are phenomenally entertaining. Cooper is perhaps the only actor today who can play really likable jerks, Helms shines in his long-deserved lead role, and Comedy Central star Galifianakis successfully transports his bizarre stand-up persona into a sure-to-be breakout performance. If you’ve ever woken up at one in the afternoon with a pounding skull and a fractured memory full of shame and regret, then you’re sure to find something in The Hangover to enjoy. And if you’ve never experienced the above, maybe you’ll just enjoy seeing a grown man get tased in the face.