– Summary –
Director : Todd Phillips
Cast : Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Sasha Barrese, Rachel Harris, Ken Jeong, Mike Epps, Rob Riggle, Bryan Callen, Cleo King, Mike Tyson, Matt Walsh.
Year Of Release: 2009
Length : 120 Minutes
Synopsis: Four friends go to Vegas for a stag party, only to awake the next morning with no memory of the previous night: and some major problems to take care of.
Review : This massive success is the ultimate Beer & Pizza Flick: gross humour, sexual innuendo and occasional violence, this film managed to acquire an inexplicable R rating here in Australia.
Be warned: this film features some of the most gormless, eye-pulling “comedy” you’ll ever see. Moments of this film are truly among the most stupid ever put on film. Then, there’s (two) moments of genuine humour. It’s hard to fathom just how a film like this could garner the positive reviews it did, much less the commercial success it also achieved… well, perhaps I can figure out why people watched this movie.
The Hangover is a film you’d watch with some mates around the TV on a Friday night, or what I term a “Beer & Pizza Movie”. That is, a movie enjoyed only with the accompaniment of the aforementioned food and beverages, as well as more than two people watching. The film is a cacophony of gutterage and slop, the medicore “comedy” mentality that has afflicted US film-making for the best part of the last ten years. The drudgery that is Scary Movie, and it’s subsequent ilk, have drained the intellectualism from comedy in the States to the point where instead of clever, Monty Python-esque material, we get The Hangover. Desperately mugging for the camera, the stars of this film ply their trade with the subtlety of a kick in the balls: the script has neither the intelligence or the wry wit to drag itself from the mediocre mire it’s so gloriously embedded in.
Let’s get to it. Frat-house comedy is an art-form with a limited shelf life at best: the crass humour and adult scenarios lend themselves to drunken viewing and water-cooler recall to a point. In the case of The Hangover, there’s very little that’s actually “adult” about it, save for a few salubrious photos during the end credits (which, I must point out, were enough to garner this film an R Rating here in Australia), and then, the promise of titillation is diluted by a layer of mean-spirited nightmare that hangs across the production from the get-go.
The Hangover, a film cookie-cut from frat-house and gross-out humour and so sporadically aimed at lowest-common-denominator audiences it’s hard to miss, relies on the fact that you’re prepared to drink plenty before watching; nobody deserves to watch this film sober. It’s an exercise in skin-crawling stupidity. The story is pretty simple: some mates go to Vegas to celebrate one of their number being soon married, only to wake the next morning with no recall of the night before, and a series of increasingly bizarre circumstances to greet them. One of them is missing a tooth, there’s a baby in the closet, and a full sized tiger in the bathroom; not to mention one of them appears to now be married when he clearly shouldn’t be. Oh, and the groom is nowhere to be found.
The bucks night from hell this is; and we’re all along for the ride. The film then takes a Memento-style trip back through time to give our “heroes” a chance to figure out what the hell happened, and return the missing groom to his wedding a few hundred miles away. Classic genre elements such as the valuable car being trashed, the trippy stripper with a heart of gold, the Asian gangster chasing them for money, and the impending violence from the not-quite-yet bride awaiting their return, are all lathered into the script. The film feels like somebody’s sat down and Google-scripted this thing, with only the barest of modifications along the way.
The cast is relatively unknown here in Australia, save perhaps Bradley Cooper (from He’s Just Not That Into You) and Heather Graham (Boogie Nights & Sidewalks of New York, among others). Cooper plays Phil, one of groom Doug’s friends. Doug (Justin Bartha), along with his soon-to-be brother in law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and hen-pecked mate Stu (Ed Helms) travel to Vegas for a “last hurrah” before Doug marries Tracy (Sasha Barrese). After being handed the keys to Father Of The Bride’s pride-and-joy vintage Mercedes, they scoot to Vegas to begin their night of debauchery. They manage to con their way into a massive penthouse apartment room at one of Vegas’s enormous hotels, and pledge that no matter what happens this night, it won’t go any further than the four of them. Cut to the following morning, when three of our four leads awake to find the room utterly trashed, and the aforementioned baby, tiger and lack of teeth.
As they try and remember, and then retrace, their steps the night before, it soon becomes apparent that the boys have gone on the mother of all benders; including stealing a tiger from Mike Tyson (in a great cameo) and marrying Heather Graham. Not only that, but a crazed Asian gang lord (Ken Jeong) is after some casino chips they’ve apparently stolen. So, they must not only find the chips, but annul some wedding vows and find Doug before the wedding. Cooper is charming, his character the unequivocal leader of this pack of beta-males. Zach Galifianakis is a genuine discovery here; he plays Alan as a slightly overweight Jesus, beard and all. Ed Helms’ real-life missing incisor comes in handy for the “missing tooth” element of the story. Add to that, and a bizarrely waxen Jeffrey Tambor as the father of the bride, looking for all the world like he’s just come from Madame Tussauds, and you’ve all the elements of a crazy film in the making.
The main problem with the script of The Hangover is that’s it’s just not funny. Unless by funny you’re supposed to laugh at the fact that the cast include the F-word in almost every sentence as though it’s some bizarre punch-line we’re all unaware of. I’m sorry, but swearing copiously doesn’t amount to a comedy routine, in my book. Perhaps that’s where I felt so bored by the whole thing. On one hand, I did want to know what the hell was going on, but on the other, I simply couldn’t be bothered with laughing at the supposedly amusing scenarios presented in this film. Ken Jeong’s inexplicably retarded gang lord is as offensive a character as you can get; I think he was supposed to be gay, but now I’m not sure… if you watch the BluRay version of the film (as I did) then you can experience even more of the out-takes of this vastly unfunny individual performance. It’s enough to make you scratch out your eyeballs.
There are things to enjoy about The Hangover, though. Don’t get all despondent on me just yet. The Mike Tyson cameo is funny as hell, even if the man so obviously cannot act to save himself. Heather Graham lights up the screen, and the film, with her criminally limited moments. Galifianakis is the only one of the four main guys who is in any way amusing; his deadpan delivery and comedy-gold physique make him destined for greatness in the genre.
But that’s it.
How did it become so successful, you ask? Simple. The basic premise of a Stag Night usually involves strippers. So a glimpse of naked flesh, a nipple or two, may have enticed the teenage male market into sneaking in to watch this flick. They’d have left disappointed. There’s no nude flesh anywhere save the end credits. But the fact the film is marketed as a raunchy comedy was clever enough to ensure the money rolled in.
So you’ve read to this point and are wondering if it’s worth going on? Probably not: but a caveat to this review is that the consumption of alcohol will greatly improve the comedy value of the movie. Coupled with a significant number of audience members and some fast-food, The Hangover is perfect booze-fest material. Is that enough to make it a good film? Nope, not by a long shot. But it’s a small niche film of the highest order. That niche being beer.
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