Saturday 4 July 2009

The Hangover (2009)

Saturday 4 July 2009
The morning after the night before...

Oh, it's yet another so-called "bromance" about thirtysomething man-boys. This one from Todd Phillips, who tackled similar fare in Old School and Road Trip. This time, three guys decide to celebrate their friend Doug's (Justin Bartha) marriage with a night of hedonism in Las Vegas. However, after handsome teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), pussywhipped dentist Stu (Ed Helms), and chubby oddball Alan (Zach Galifianakis) toast plans for debauchery on the roof of Caesar's Palace, they wake up the next morning in the hazy aftermath of their errant night -- minus their memories. And the groom...

What follows is a hungover search of Sin City to find the Doug and get him to the church on time, meaning the friends must retrace their steps using the evidence and clues to their revelry; a tiger in the bathroom, a missing lateral incisor, a baby, a hospital bracelet, pockets full of casino chips, a mattress on the hotel roof, a stolen police car, etc. Think Dude, Where's My Car? but with a groom replacing the automobile.

It's a good set-up for a comedy-mystery, and The Hangover delivers some fun explanations for the mess the friends find themselves in; involving a kindly stripper (Heather Graham), an effeminate Chinese gangster called Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), two angry cops (Rob Riggle and Cleo King), and former-heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. The fact there are no established stars also helped you invest in the characters more than you might have otherwise. Relative newcomers Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis prove to be an engaging trio, as they desperately try to set things right before Doug's fiancé finds out and the wedding's called off.

Unfortunately, The Hangover lacks the gut-busting laughs this brand of comedy demands every 10-15 minutes. It's engaging but never particularly funny watching the threesome deduce their whereabouts over the past twelve hours. The laughs only come when something unexpected happens during the investigation -- like a Chinese man leaping on our heroes in a naked, surprise attack. A lot of laughs come from simple reaction shots or throwaway quips (a cute baby, a fuming fat kid, a prissy Chinese villain, a testy doctor.) Only one scene could be described as uproarious (classroom Tazer guns), and only Galifianakis and Jeong etch themselves in your memory as people to take note of. Helms and Cooper are capable and likeable performers, but neither play characters that tickle your funnybone very much.

The Hangover also makes the classic comedy mistake of stretching its thin idea a smidgen too far. The movie is just 100-minutes long, but it feels closer to two-hours and starts to outstays its welcome once it skips past the natural climax point with a desert exchange with a group of gangsters. The script is amusing in places, but it's never consistently hilarious or madcap enough for you to want to spend time with these people as they dash around Vegas collecting third-person anecdotes of their forgotten misadventure. Admittedly though, the end-credit photos explaining the gang's "missing time" was a great way to end things on an illuminating, funny high.

Overall, The Hangover is an adequate comedy with a handful of good moments and some giggles, but the story is a tad too thin and only Galifianakis lends proceedings a capricious sense of humour to keep your attention. He also understands the need to undersell bad taste for it to be funny, but some may still find it distasteful that the movie mines a lot of its material from masturbating babies, imposing black men, gay foreigners, bullying police officers, and officious women.

directed by: Todd Phillips written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore starring: Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Stu Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billing), Heather Graham (Jade), Sasha Barrese (Tracy Garner), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Ken Jeong (Mr. Chow), Rachael Harris (Melissa), Mike Tyson (Himself), Mike Epps (Black Doug), Rob Riggle (Officer Franklin), Bryan Callen (Eddie Palermo) & Mike Vallely (Tuxedo Delivery Man) / Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. / 100 min. / $35 million (budget)