Friday, November 6, 2009

Try to Remember The Night of Your Bender. Review of The Hangover (Review #25)


THE HANGOVER

Las Vegas, Nevada has become in the American psyche a center of total decadence. This is the place where one is freed from all restraints of morality, where one can indulge in whatever carnal desires one has without having to worry about the end result. There are no rules, no boundaries. Whatever inhibitions you may have are gone in Vegas: you can do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, whoever you want.

In reality, this is not true, but people still flock to Sin City in the belief that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". The Hangover is a chronicle of four men who test out that theory, and find themselves in the wildest, most outrageous (and funniest) bender in film.

It's a few days before Doug (Justin Bartha) gets married. For his bachelor party, he and two friends, along with his future brother-in-law, go to Las Vegas. There's Stu, the doctor (well, technically the dentist) (Ed Helms), the literally too-cool-for-school teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Doug's fiancée's oddball brother Alan (Zac Galifianakis). When they get there, they prepare for a night they will never forget. The next morning, Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in their suite to not only the room beyond trashed, but a tiger in the bathroom, a chicken in the hallway, a baby in the closet, a tooth missing, and the groom missing. No one has any idea what happened to get them in the situation. Trying to reconstruct the previous evening in order to find Doug and get him back to the wedding, they find the evening involved not only the above, but a stolen police car, a Vegas wedding to a stripper/escort (Heather Graham), an Asian crime lord...and Mike Tyson.

The situations these guys find themselves in are outrageous, but in a curious sense it all makes sense. It reminds me of a line from All About Eve. In the party scene, Marilyn Monroe is reprimanded for calling a waiter "butler". "Well I can't yell, 'Oh Butler', can I? Somebody's name could be Butler". "You have a point," George Sanders concedes. "An idiotic one, but a point". In the same way, The Hangover should be on the surface, completely unbelievable: the situations go beyond what could be believed. However, there is a logic to everything, and one of the positives of the script is that it makes the circumstances to how these average guys found themselves in their predicament believable.

Credit also has to go to the performances. Each of the male characters has their moments. The only "name" performer is Helms, one of the stars of The Office, and he brings a loveable nebbishness to Stu. Cooper gives a star-turning performance with his Phil, a guy looking for a good time but who leads his crew in their efforts to find Doug. Galifianakis makes Alan both completely crazy and oddly endearing in his lunacy. Few people could ask about if Caesar actually lived at Caesar's Palace and make it sound rational...as rational as Alan could be. Although Graham and Jeffrey Tambor as Doug's future father-in-law have small roles, they still bring out the laughs. Mike Tyson, playing himself, also adds not just a hint of menace but also a delightful sense of self-parody that makes him both more frightening and endearing.

The reason The Hangover works is because the story has a sense of logic, and the guys are relatable. The audience knows and identifies with them, and wants them to succeed. The laughs don't stop once the mysteries have been solved--the reception is also one of the funniest (and oddest) ones in film. Be sure to stay for the closing credits, where digital pictures they took not only explain most of how the guys got in their situation, but also manage to throw in a few more oddities.

My only complaint is that we never got an explanation for the chicken. Still, that's a minor point. The Hangover is outrageous but rational, and the good thing is that it is funny both drunk AND sober.  It does what it set out to do: make me laugh, hard, at its outrageousness and silliness, and out of comedies, that's all I ask.

1 comment:

  1. I couln't stop laughing at this movie, it was really funny and along with the comedy kept me in good suspense as they were trying to figure out what the heck happened that night. The part I still can't get over is when the police officer told Alan..."Ok stand over here fat Jesus." I mean he really looked like a fat Jesus and another part at the end when their wedding singer did his own version of 50 Cent's "Candy Shop." Those parts were great...as well as the entire movie itself. This piece of film to me is "A" okay:)

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