***1/2 (out of 5)
June 5, 2009
Bradley Cooper as PHIL WENNECK
Ed Helms as STU PRICE
Zach Galifianakis as ALAM GARNER
Justin Bartha as DOUG BILLINGS
Heather Graham as JADE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Todd Phillips
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Judd Apatow isn’t the only director responsible for the return of the raunchy R-rated comedy. Todd Phillips, who gave us films like “Road Trip” and “Old School” had a hand in this as well. And now, he continues his work with “The Hangover.”
This movie follows four guys who head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. After a night of raucous drinking and a little unplanned drug use, they wake up with blinding hangovers and no memory of the night before. They also have lost the groom, whom they need to find before his wedding in Los Angeles the next day.
The bulk of the film consists of the guys desperately trying to piece together their wild night, and much of the comedy comes from them discovering some of the insane things that happened. In a strange way, this reminds me of the forgotten 80s Keanu Reeves movie “The Night Before,” only without the accidental selling of Lori Loughlin to a killer pimp.
Probably the most amazing thing about “The Hangover” is that it’s such a high profile movie that has no A-list actors attached to it. Probably the closest thing you have to a big name is Heather Graham, who isn’t all that big to begin with and is in the movie less than Jennifer Aniston was in “Office Space.”
However, the lack of A-list talent helps this movie far more than it hurts it. The three hungover friends are played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, and they all own their roles better than any major star could. Zach Galifianakis in particular (and he’s the one who looks like the homeless guy on the poster, in case you don’t know who he is) steals almost every scene he’s in.
Like any major R-rated comedy, “The Hangover” works best when it’s aiming for the gutter and zinging the audience with crude sexual jokes. It’s not a high-brow film, nor does it pretend to be one. “The Hangover” knows its place and plays right to it. If you see this movie, you’ll probably be offended and definitely be disturbed, but you’ll also laugh quite a bit.
However, like many screwball comedies, “The Hangover” stumbles in the middle. An unseen hand has declared that there must be character arcs for all of the folks in the cast, so some character changes go on that aren’t really that necessary. A similar thing happened in last fall’s “Role Models,” which brought that film to a screeching halt. Fortunately, this slow-down in “The Hangover” doesn’t happen until the movie rounds the corner towards the end, so it was forgivable.
If the filmmakers had tried to solve the characters’ problems earlier, this film would have quickly become tedious. After all, pretty much everyone in the film is a horrible person, either cynical to a fault, pathetic or self-destructive beyond repair. It’s much more comfortable to laugh at these characters than empathize with them.
Much like Mike Tyson’s awkward (albeit amusing) cameo, this film does overstay its welcome, but it’s something that I can live with considering the decent number of funny moments in the rest of the movie.