Ed Helms

The Hangover

2009

Warner Brothers

Directed by Todd Phillips

Produced by Todd Phillips and Daniel Goldberg

Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

If you’ve been following my movie reviews for any decent length of time then you know that while I love comedies I rarely find any recently produced that do what I think comedies are supposed to do: make me laugh.  Not just chuckle, chortle or smile.  I want to walk out of the theater with my sides aching from laughing so much and so hard.   THE HANGOVER did that to me and I loved minute of it.  I was highly skeptical about seeing this movie due to all the hype.  Ever since I got burned on “There’s Something About Mary” and the first two Austin Powers movies I’ve been leery about comedy movies that get that kind of hype but in the case of THE HANGOVER, it’s deserved.

The movie actually starts off like a thriller or a mystery.  Four men are standing by a battered, beat-to-hell vintage Mercedes Benz somewhere in a desert.  The four men are just as battered, bloody and look as if they’ve been a street fight with one of the gangs from “The Warriors”.  One of the men is on his cell phone trying to explain to a hysterical bride that they have lost her future husband in Las Vegas and have no idea where he is.  In fact, they have no idea what has happened since none of them can remember anything after doing shots of Jagermeister on the roof of Caesar’s Palace a day ago.

Jump in the Wayback Machine and go two days back: Doug (Justin Bartha) heads for Las Vegas with his two best friends.  Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a high school teacher and Stu (Ed Helms) a dentist.  They’re joined by Doug’s future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifanakis) who they’re really not sure about.  Alan is somewhat eccentric in manner, speech, dress and…hell, he’s just odd, period.  Doug’s always wanted to have a bachelor party in Las Vegas and his buds are determined to see that he has one he’ll never forget.

It turns out the opposite: it’s the one that they can’t remember but it must have been one hell of a party considering that they wake up in a $4,000 a night suite, complete with tons of empty liquor and champagne bottles all over the place, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a chicken casually strolling around, Stu missing a tooth and Doug just plain missing.  Phil, Stu and Alan valiantly sober up and set out on a day long odyssey through Las Vegas, following the most improbable of clues (when and how in the hell did they steal a police car?) as they struggle to piece together exactly what happened the night before and find Doug to get him to his wedding on time.  Assuming of course that things didn’t get too out of hand and poor Doug is lying dead face down in a ditch somewhere.  Which is a distinct possibility considering some of the characters the boys run into.  Such as the Chinese mobster Mr. Chow who is extremely pissed off at our heroes for good reasons I wouldn’t dare reveal here.

That’s about all you need to know to go into THE HANGOVER since I really don’t revealing too much about a comedy movie.  What’s the point of me telling you the jokes and depriving you of a laugh?  Which is something about THE HANGOVER I really liked: it’s been my experience that trailers for comedies usually have the biggest and best laughs in the movie so that by the time you actually see the movie, it’s a let down because there’s no jokes in the movie that compare to the ones you’ve already seen.

I’m happy to report that such is not the case with THE HANGOVER.  The jokes you see in the trailer are far from the funniest ones, many of which couldn’t be shown in a trailer because of their sheer raunchiness.  For once, a comedy movie has kept its best gags where they should be kept: in the movie.

I really liked the performances in this movie because the cast is mostly unknown to me.  With the exception of Bryan Callan, who I know from ‘MADtv’ and ‘Fat Actress’ Mike Epps, Jeffrey Tambor and Rachael Harris, who co-starred with Callan in ‘Fat Actress’ the rest of the cast were fresh faces and that went a long way toward drawing me into the movie’s story in a way that I don’t think would have happened if more well-known comedic actors had starred in this.  And Mike Tyson really surprised me as he was remarkably funny in his performance as Mike Tyson.  He’s got quite a bit more to do with the plot than the trailer suggests and it’s a tribute to how clever the screenwriters are in the way they logically get Mike Tyson into the action.

And THE HANGOVER works on another level in that the actors don’t act like they’re in a comedy movie.  You know what I mean and if you don’t, check out one of the worst offenders of this; ‘You, Me and Dupree’.  THE HANGOVER’s comedy comes out of the situations these guys find themselves in and not oh-so-clever one-liners thrown in every couple of minutes.  The comedy comes from the circumstances and how the characters react to them.  The dialog is realistic and I found myself really caught up in the mystery of what the hell happened during that night and where the hell is Doug?

So should you see THE HANGOVER?  Without a doubt, yes.   It’s raunchy, crude, sometimes depraved, lewd and offensive.  But it’s also clever, sharp and funny from start to finish.  And that’s the best recommendation I can give any comedy.

Rated R: For language, sexual content including nudity and drug use.  The f-word and its many variations are thrown around with careless abandon so if you’ve got sensitive ears, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

100 minutes