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The Hangover (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 17, 2023

The Hangover (2009)


Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris, Wayne Newton and Mike Tyson.

Screenplay by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Directed by Todd Phillips.

Distributed by Warner Bros. 100 minutes. Rated R.

The travel commercials which claim "Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" have found their full–length companion with The Hangover.

This good–natured and surprisingly funny look at a bachelor party gone dangerously awry takes a well–worn storyline – these waters have also been trod in the likes of Very Bad Things and the aptly titled Whatever Happens in Vegas – however The Hangover finds a different (and frankly better) way to tell this familiar story.

Quite simply, The Hangover begins where most of these stories would end. We never see exactly the mayhem these four got themselves into – with the exception of a bunch of snapshots at the very end – but we get to see all of the fall–out from their blowout.

Of course, the guys semi–mistakenly took roofies (the date rape drug) – one of them thought he had scored some ecstasy and slipped it into the buddies' drinks – and therefore the three guys have no clue what happened the night before. All they know for sure is there is a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in a closet, one of them is married to a hooker, one is missing a tooth, they got home in a stolen police car, there is a naked Japanese man locked in their car trunk and there is absolutely no sign of the groom. Oh, and the wedding is the next day.

Sounds like a normal Vegas weekend to me.

What makes The Hangover so funny is not so much the craziness that they got into but their shock as the misdeeds of the night before slowly unfold. It is almost a comic mystery – little bits of information being doled out in outrageous and surprising ways.

One reason it works so well is because the cast is not over–exposed, so that we can picture them more easily as the men who – as the poster suggests – "just can't handle Vegas."

It is a star-making turn for Bradley Cooper – who has been consistently interesting as a supporting actor in films like He's Just Not That Into You, The Wedding Crashers and Failure to Launch. Ed Helms of The Office also shows a depth and fearlessness that has not always been evident in previous roles. However, the real crazed id of the film is comic Zach Galifianakis – who is both hysterical and vaguely disturbing as the oddball outsider with the friends – he's the slovenly and just a bit crazed brother of the bride.

The Hangover is directed by Todd Phillips – who has plenty of experience with grown men acting like children in his previous films Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Road Trip and School for Scoundrels. (He also co–wrote the basic storyline for the mostly–improvised Borat.) In fact, the whole idea of men behaving immaturely seems to be Phillips' specialty as a filmmaker.

While some of those movies had their moments – well really only Old School and Road TripThe Hangover shows a huge improvement as a filmmaker by Phillips. (Of course, this may simply be because The Hangover is the only one of these titles that Phillips did not write – this screenplay was by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.)

Whatever the reason, The Hangover is not only the most consistently funny film of Phillip's career, it is on the short list of the most consistently funny films so far this year.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: December 10, 2009.

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