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The Hangover: A Las Vegas Bachelor Party Movie

April 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

The Hangover: A Las Vegas Bachelor Party Movie

Is this one of the funniest Las Vegas bachelor party movies ever made? Is this a morning after experience you’ll never regret, or is it just another post-party night headache?’s movie reviewer Jeremy Thomas gives us the lowdown.

Films about weddings traditionally shoot for the female demographic. It is tradition—in Hollywood, anyway—that a wedding is the moment every woman looks forward to and every man deeply fears, and thus it is no surprise that that the vast majority of films marketed around the matrimonial ceremony are built for the fairer sex. Just in the past year or we’ve had films such as Made of Honor, Mamma Mia!, Bride Wars, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past that have taken the institution of marriage and spun it into female-driven laughs (in theory, at least), and only I Love You Man that’s taken more of a guy-oriented look on the tradition of getting married.

Occasionally however there is that film that comes along that bucks the unfortunately-named “chick flick” trend, making a wedding-related film that tries to appeal to guys as equally as it does women. Enter The Hangover, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham and Justin Bartha.

The Hangover opens with Phil (Cooper) calling up the about-to-be-married Tracy (Barrese). Phil looks beat up, dirty and run ragged; in the background his friend Stu (Helms) and Tracy’s brother Alan (Galifianakis) sit on a badly-beat up classic Mercedes. Tracy is freaking out because Phil, Stu and Alan haven’t yet returned from a trip with her husband-to-be Doug (Bartha), and the wedding is supposed to happen in five hours. Phil gives a resigned look and says “Yeah….that’s not gonna happen.” From there we move back two days to learn that the four men are in Los Angeles, about to head to Las Vegas for a night out as Doug’s bachelor party.

Stu is a dentist who is henpecked by his shrewish, evil girlfriend of three years Melissa (Harris), while Phil is a prick-ish school teacher who cheats his kids out of money via a bogus fee for a field trip so he can add it to the Vegas weekend fund. Alan, for his part, just isn’t quite right. He’s bright, but has no real social skills to speak of. The four take Doug’s soon to be father-in-law up on his offer to take his Mercedes on the trip. Once they get to the hotel, they toast to the night…one which they wake up from with no memory and no Doug. The groom is missing, their hotel suite is beyond trashed, and there’s a tiger and a baby in the room.

It then becomes a backward mystery as Phil, Stu and Alan try to piece together the wildest night that Las Vegas may have ever seen, encountering among other things a stripper (Graham), a very pissed-off Asian man with no clothes and a tire iron (Jeong), a pair of cops who lost their patrol car (Riggle & King) and Mike Tyson himself as they race to find their friend and get him back to the wedding on time.

The Hangover, as written by the team of Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, is an unapologetically male take on a wedding comedy. Lucas and Moore are no strangers to using weddings in a comedic light, having scripted Ghosts of Girlfriends Past which came out last month. The two movies are not so different than one might think, both relying around a gimmick to construct the plot. While Ghosts melds A Christmas Carol with your standard rom-com as its gimmick—and did so with very mixed results—the gimmick that surrounds The Hangover works much more effectively. It is the Memento of bachelor party films, cleverly removing the actual night from the plot and instead leaving around clues for the protagonists to use in uncovering what happened.

Lucas and Moore treat the night of debauchery—and truly, from what we learn, it is a legendary night of debauchery—like the some of the best and most classic horror films treat murder and violence. Left off-screen and only hinted at, the idea is for us to more or less reconstruct within our minds exactly what happened. Even when we learn certain things—how the tiger got into the room and what Tyson has to do with it—and even see occasional videos in the form of security footage, it is only a sampling of what all went on throughout the night. The writing team treats Las Vegas here as a much more suitable setting than recent films like Escape to Witch Mountain and What Happens in Vegas…; the city keeps its reputation as Sin City here, giving us the glamour and the glitz as well as the seamy underside.

The duo also do a good job keeping the characters likeable; Stu’s milquetoast demeanor could make him quite unlikeable, but it’s flipped on its head as the revelations start to fly and he becomes undone. Phil could likewise be the irritating jerk who drags down the movie, but he’s written so as to be inherently likeable by virtue of his desperation to find his friend and get him back to his wedding. Alan is presented as something more than the weirdo goofball as well, and the care in making all the characters interesting extends all the way through the cast.

Of course, much of the credit for the characters also lies in the performances, and they largely lie on the back of a trio who gets the job done quite well. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis carry this film on the strength of their comedic performances and chemistry as a team.

Cooper has perhaps the toughest role as he plays it more or less straight throughout, being the more level-headed member of the three. He has an undeniable charm that’s been displayed in many a film before, from Midnight Meat Train to He’s Just Not That Into You. Here he plays up Phil’s less charming traits when the script calls for it, but there’s a lot to like in his charm and good nature. Ironically, his role seems somewhat similar to Mathew McConaughey’s in the aforementioned Ghosts of Girlfriends Past but there’s more to him even though he’s not carrying the film on his own, and much of that has to do with the actors.

Helms and Galifianakis have the more outlandish roles and handle them very well. Galifianakis has the shaggy man-child act down well and he provides a lot of laughs, both in physical humor and in the sincerely innocent way he tries to talk about things that are clearly over his head. The actor has played smaller roles in other films but this is his breakout role and he nails it very well, using mannerisms that aren’t too far off from his stand-up comedy persona.

For Helm’s part, he makes the straight-laced Stu a joy to watch as he freaks out over the increasingly insane revelations of the night before. He has a lot of great moments of physical humor and delivers his lines with a great nervous, occasionally manic energy. With these three actors at the forefront the movie is in excellent hands.

By no means are the three actors the only ones who give excellent performances. Justin Bartha has, being the lost groom, far less screen time than most of the prominent characters but he handles himself very well. The actor has largely made his name as the quirky sidekick of Nicolas Cage in the National Treasure films, but he plays the straight man here very well, being the glue that holds the other three together. He is responsible for establishing the bond before he vanishes, particularly between Alan and the other two.

The rest of the cast is memorable and funny, particularly Ken Jeong as the Asian man they find locked in their trunk and Rob Riggle as the police officer whose cop car comes up missing. Heather Graham, in her first big-screen feature since 2006’s Bobby, gives a performance that could help catapult her back into bigger roles as the stripper/escort girl Jade who becomes quite involved with one of the guys. Her performance is very funny, but also very sympathetic and even down to earth a couple of times. Even Mike Tyson brings a good amount of laughs during his time on screen; there’s no one who isn’t in top form in this movie, and it makes for an uproarious experience.

Director Todd Phillips is no stranger to guy-buddy films. The filmmaker made his name on movies like Road Trip and Old School, not to mention the less-funny efforts of Starsky & Hutch and School for Scoundrels. Much like the writing team, Phillips redeems himself from his past mistakes here. He runs things fast-paced and tightly-woven, never really allowing the audience to catch their breath which very much matches how the experience of the characters.

He also doesn’t let the movie slow down to the obligatory maudlin and “serious” moments. There’s simply no need for them, as he allows the scenes to carry the sincerity of the friendship of the four friends without ramming it down the audience’s throat and thus we don’t have to have a moment where they get all serious and talk about how much they love their missing friend and how much trouble they’re in. Phillips has enough respect for his audience and his cast and crew to know that will come across through a natural course of the story, and he puts the film together in just such a way to make that the case.

Many times, the comic timing of a film has as much if not more to do with the director than the actors, and Phillips reminds us how much talent he has in that area. He keeps the film boiling with a raunchy, over-the-edge humor that pushes the extent of the R-rating sometimes, particularly during the closing-credits sequence, but is always funny. He is quite adept at humiliating and torturing his cast for laughs, and laughs it certainly brings. As things spiral further and further into absurdity, it is Phillips who keeps things grounded at least somewhat in reality and keeps the situations relatable, which just makes them funnier.

It’s a return to form for Phillips, proving that as long as he has a good script he can make a great comedy that sustains the laughs from start to finish. He may make a few miscues with the soundtrack—distressingly populated early on with pop hits that may make the film seem dated in years to come—but besides that he hits all the high notes and director of photography Lawrence Sher keeps the film looking sharp and impressive. While it may not quite be the film of the year, it comes close and there is no doubt that it is the comedy of the year so far, tossing all other contenders to the throne off the roof of Caesar’s Palace the same way a certain mattress during the wild night in question.

Conclusion: With The Hangover, Todd Phillips has shown us that he can be forgiven for past mistakes such as School for Scoundrels. He takes this story of the morning after a bachelor party gone wildly wrong, as nicely-scripted by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, and keeps things moving along very nicely. The laughs are non-stop thanks to the efforts of Phillips and his able cast, top lined by great comedic performances from Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. The humor may be too over-the-top and offensive to some, but for those who like R-rated comedy, this is one to rank up there with the best of them. Last note: definitely stay through the credits for some uproarious photos that tie the night together, giving us a glimpse into the insanity that went on.

Final Score: 8.5 – SEE THIS MOVIE!

Running Time: 96 minutes
Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material

Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

Bradley Cooper – Phil Wenneck
Ed Helms – Stu Price
Zach Galifianakis – Alan Garner
Justin Bartha – Doug Billings
Heather Graham – Jade
Jeffrey Tambor – Sid Garner
Ken Jeong – Mr. Chow
Mike Tyson – Himself
Sasha Barrese – Tracy Garner
Rob Riggle – Officer Franklin
Rachael Harris – Melissa
Mike Epps – Black Doug


Tags: Las Vegas Movies

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Neil G. // Aug 31, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    One the years funniest movies ever.

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