It seems every summer there is at least one or two R-rated comedies that really connect with audiences and take Hollywood by surprise. The first one this year is director Todd Phillip’s The Hangover, a film that has defied pundits by dominating the box office for two weeks in a row; the only movie so far this summer to achieve such a feat. What makes The Hangover’s success even more fascinating it that it has beaten out the likes of Pixar, Will Ferrell, and the combined talents of Denzel Washington and John Travolta, all of whom are proven box-office performers. Much of the talk surrounding the film centers around the fact that it has achieved so much success without having a single “big name star.” Yet the reason for The Hangover’s popularity is rather simple, when the jokes work, the movie delivers several big laughs
On the eve of Doug’s (Justin Bartha) wedding, his buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), along with soon to be brother-in law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), take him to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. Adhering to the policy “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” the men plan to have one heck of a night on the town. The next morning Phil, Stud, and Alan wake up to find Doug missing and their hotel room completely trashed. To make matters worse, none of them have any recollection of what happened the night before. The three men have only 24 hours to piece together what they did the previous night in order to find Doug and get him home in time for the wedding.
Essentially The Hangover is a lesser version of Old School in my opinion. While some may see this statement as an insult, it is in fact a compliment to the movie. Old School is one of my favourite comedies of recent years. It is one of those comedies that I can watch over and over without fail. Besides being made by the same director, The Hangover has numerous similarities to Old School, right down to the characterization of the four men. Bradley Cooper is the Vince Vaughn character, the father with hot wife and kid, who will not let the bad boy ways go. Ed Helms is the Luke Wilson character, the good guy whose girl friend is not faithful. Zach Galifianakis is the Will Ferrell man-child of the group, though with fewer brain cells than Ferrell’s “Frank the Tank.” Yet the one unique thing The Hangover has that separates itsef from Phillips other movie is an element of mystery.
I found myself getting caught up in trying to figure out what exactly happened to the guys that night. I liked the way the plot unfolded with clues slowly being dispersed. Also, no matter how crazy some of the explanations were, the movie answered the majority of the questions it raised. The only real draw back to the mystery aspect is that it took away from the consistency of laughs. While The Hangover had many humourous moments, it was not one of those movies where I laughed from beginning to end straight. There are many lulls in the picture to ensure that the advancement of the rather thin plot.
Another thing that hinders the flow of the film at times is the randomness of some of the characters, especially in regards to Alan. In some parts Alan’s clueless oddball routine is funny, yet at other times it is uneven, and worse, down right creepy. Early on Alan remarks that he is legally not to be within 250 yards of a school. Yet the movie never elaborate on this fact; which only makes his comedic scenes with children in the film, especially the hand jesters with the baby, fall flat instead of being scathingly funny. I also thought the Rain Man spoof in the casino was not necessary at all. It actually killed some of the comedic highs of the scenes preceding it. Yet Alan was not the only Vegas bulb that could use some fixing, Phillip’s could have given Doug a much better set up overall. Doug is nothing more than a catalyst for the story to take place. There is nothing remotely interesting about him at all. I actually found myself more interested in Heather Graham’s Jade than I was with anything in Doug’s life. There should have been at least a few scenes between Doug and his fiancée that would make the audience want to see them reunited.
Will The Hangover go down as a comedy classic? No. Although I had fun time watching it, the movie pales in comparison to similar comedies of its ilk (i.e. Old School, Wedding Crashers, etc.). Still, there are enough big laughs in The Hangover to warrant the strong business it is currently doing in theatres.
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