a critiQal film review The Hangover (2009)

Plot: Two days before his wedding, Doug (Bartha) drives to Las Vegas with three friends for a blow-out bachelor party. When the three groomsmen wake up the next morning with pounding headaches, they can't remember a thing, their luxury hotel suite is beyond trashed and the groom is nowhere to be found. With no clue about what happened and little time to spare, the trio tries to retrace their steps from the night before, find Doug, and get him to his wedding on time.

Reviewed
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  • ...the night these guys can't remember is a film so funny you'll want to see it again and again.

Wow…here we are in June already! Seems like just the other day we were kicking off our Summer At The Movies ’09 with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), yet it’s time for our 6th film of the summer.

While May’s weeks were filled with obvious choices, the first week of June left us with a choice. Since we both didn’t really want to see Will Ferrell try to be funny – and fail again – in Land of the Lost (2009), that left us with either seeing Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), which we had missed, or a lesser known film titled The Hangover. After hearing from a couple of friends over the past few days that The Hangover was hilarious, we finally decided on that one this week.

While the preview had looked pretty funny (including a surprise guest cameo from Mike Tyson), we just weren’t sure if The Hangover was really worth seeing in theaters. Would we be thankful we took our friends’ advice, or should we have stuck with the much safer Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)?

At first glance, The Hangover seems to be a fresh take on a Jack Black film, with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha playing the straight men to Jack Black’s character (played this time around by Zach Galifianakis). However, for the first time, the Jack Black persona is taken for what he is – a bit kooky, with guesses about his mental capacity. While most of Jack’s…er, Zach’s…jokes fall flat, the fact that the rest of the cast show a bit of pity for him make it all the funnier – and the way most of Jack Black’s previous films should have played out.

Tossing that cliched setup out on it’s ear, The Hangover instead goes for the “what happened last night?” scenario. Cooper plays his part to perfection, sharing a bleak commiseration with most of the audience (who will probably be able to relate to a certain extent) as he and his pals stumble their way through a reconstruction of the night before. Helms, originally seeming to play another prim-and-proper character, does a great job of playing a character shocked and appalled at his bizarre actions of the night before – yet the viewer will be able to see a hint of a smile at what he was able to do when he is let loose.

Heather Graham turns in a rather throwaway performance as a surprise escort, as does Omar Epps in a brief role, but even those toss-off performances don’t detract from the solid base the director builds with Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis.

The film does a good job of setting up the whole scenario, given viewers a glimpse of the characters in their natural habitats and showing the beginning of their crazy night (a toast on a roof) – then abruptly shifts to their hotel suite the morning after, delivering a slow pan of the now destroyed (and yes, partially smoking) hotel suite. As the characters groggily stir to life (and a chicken wanders past), they slowly try to piece together what happened to them.

With that long slow span of the now destroyed hotel suite, the viewer is immediately hooked, waiting to see how the hotel suite went from pristine to the state it’s now in. As the characters slowly discover more and more about the bizarre events of the night before, the viewer will be in-step with them the whole way, laughing out loud as more and more of the previous night’s events come to light.

While most films tend to concentrate on only one kind of funny (obscene, bizarre situation, etc.), The Hangover has something for every adult. Full of profanity, shocking surprise after shocking surprise and laugh-out-loud hilarity, The Hangover finally delivers the humor so many films (including Phillips’ Old School (2003)) have promised but completely failed to deliver.

Don’t miss out on this one. The night these guys can’t remember is a film so funny you’ll want to see it again and again.

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