© 2009 Ray Wong
As far as raunchy adult comedy is concerned, Judd Apatow apparently does not have the market cornered yet. The Hangover is unabashedly adult, but not completely mature.
Doug (Justin Bartha) and Tracy (Sasha Barrese) are getting married. Two days before the lavish wedding in Los Angeles, Doug's best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) are giving him a bachelor's party he will not forget. In Las Vegas. Doug also brings along Tracy's "slow" brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). The foursome makes it to Vegas in style, in a vintage Mercedes that belongs to Tracy's father (Jeffrey Tambor). They make a toast on the rooftop of Caesar Palace and vow to have the best time of their lives.
What happens next is everyone's guess. They wake up the next morning with huge hangovers, and can't remember anything that happened the night before. The hotel suite is completely trashed. Worst, Doug is missing. With the wedding only a day away, Phil, Stu and Alan must retrace their steps and find Doug -- preferably still alive. Their mysteries take them through their misadventures again, and these three must learn to get alone with one other.
Bradley Cooper (He's Just Not That Into You) is an up-and-coming star following the footsteps of Matthew McConnaughey. I call him Christian Bale Lite. Not that Cooper is not a good actor -- in fact, he's excellent in this movie -- but he's yet to find his breakout role. Certainly he has a big role in The Hangover, but it is also a bit underwritten and he's constantly overshadowed by Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis.
Helms (The Office) is hilarious as the straight man of the unfortunate foursome. He plays the neurotic and timid dentist with great comic timing. It is not easy to play the most "normal" character in the bunch and yet make us laugh so much, and Helms does it wonderfully. In comparison, Zach Galifianakis (Into the Wild) has the wackiest role in the film and he excels in it. He makes us laugh so hard and yet feel sympathy for a guy who practically has "loser" written all over his body.
The supporting cast includes Justin Bartha (National Treasure) as the poor groom-to-be. Bartha has a relative small role (since he disappears for most of the film) but manages to pull it off nicely. Heather Graham (Baby On Board) is sweet as a stripper who willingly gets involved. Rachael Harris (The Soloist) is excellent as Helm's girlfriend from Hell. And Ken Jeong (Role Models) puts in a hilarious (and naked) performance as a sexually ambiguous mafia. There are some interesting cameos, including Mike Tyson.
The script by Jon Lucas (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) and Scott Moore (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) are surprisingly tight and funny. They manage to mix multiple genres -- buddy, road trip, mystery, raunchy sex comedy, even a bit of romcom thrown in -- with great results. There are multiple scenarios and dialogue that would bust our guts. And some scenes would make us gasp in disbelief, especially what the actors would do for a laugh (and definitely stay for the closing credits). The mystery unfolds nicely with enough intrigue, disbelief and puzzlement: How the %$@# did they get there?
Granted, some scenarios are amazingly outrageous and the writers did not give us any real explanation. We just have to believe that they happened. But that's the brilliance of the story. With a blackout like that, anything could happen and they did happen. The story is as much about finding out what happened as fixing them. The writers also give us just enough character development to make us care about these characters. Surely, for example, Phil is a douche, Stu is a nerd, and Alan is out of his mind. But we come to love them and want them to find their way back home.
Director Todd Philips (School for Scoundrels) keeps the mystery close the vest and moves the story along briskly. He creates many cringe-worthy scenarios and keeps the focus on the characters and their relationships. Sure, the jokes can be crude and the characters may be childish, but Philips never lets us doubt that we should be rooting for them.
As far as comedy goes, The Hangover is outrageous, but it's also funny with great characters and a soft heart. It succeeds in finding that balance, to make us laugh out loud and also feel warm and fuzzy inside, leaving us all hung over with glee.
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, drug
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.8 out of 10