August Issue 2009

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 15 years ago

There is so much that is wrong with The Hangover. And that is what makes it so good. The wrong in this comedy has nothing to do with the filmmaking. It has everything to do with the jokes. Politically incorrect, rude, shocking, outrageous and crude, the laughs are generated from a bunch of grown-up boys behaving badly. Their decisions are so clearly wrong, they induce gasps of disbelief, however briefly — for it’s laughter, howling, guffawing, eye-watering laughter, that commandeers your emotions for the full 100 minutes.

It’s two days before his wedding night and Doug (Justin Bartha) is heading out to Las Vegas with his two best buddies (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) and his brother-in-law-to-be for a no-limits, last-day-of-bachelorhood send-off. They get more than they bargained for: they wake up the next morning to find their hotel room trashed, a jungle animal in the bathroom, no memories of the night before and the groom missing.

This is the quintessential guy flick: four guys, a bachelor party and Vegas. Throw in a bizarre cameo by Mike Tyson and Heather Graham as a lovable and love-starved stripper and what XY chromosome-defined person wouldn’t want to grab a bag of popcorn, settle in and watch this one play out?

And once the movie gets rolling, it doesn’t take long to hook any viewer in, male or female. This is where the cleverness of the film lies: immediately pulling in all viewers by making this a mystery wrapped in a comedy. The Hangover doesn’t appeal to the base needs of men by showing one night of debauchery unfold one testosterone-fuelled antic at a time. It shows the aftermath. Determining what happened with the discovery of each piece of unfathomable stag-night detritus keeps the questions coming, keeps the tension tight and keeps jacking up the intrigue. (And for the women there are two weddings).

The cast of non-stars make up the customary oddball group of friends: the straight man; the handsome and cool leader; the weak, geeky number-three man; and the reject tag along, who is a buddy of circumstance — the recipient of the straight man’s boy-next-door benevolence. With this film, Bradley Cooper, as the cool ringleader, will become Hollywood’s new dreamy heartthrob. He may have a decent list of supporting roles behind him (Yes Man, He’s Just Not That Into You), but The Hangover is a rocket of a comedy that will launch his career into the stratosphere.

Director Todd Phillips (Old School, School for Scoundrels) and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have made an unapologetically audacious, gut-busting and beautifully structured R-rated comedy. It is not the most intelligent comedy, and it may even be filled with its share of clichés, but make no mistake, it is intelligently filmed. Besides, it’s one hangover that you’ll love every second of.