Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Movie Review: The Hangover (2009)
A group of friends head to Las Vegas for a wild bachelor party. Doug is the groom-to-be; Phil is his hip friend; Stu is his dentist friend shackled by a domineering woman; and Alan will become Doug's brother-in-law.
In Vegas, they wake up in a trashed hotel room (really trashed -- there is a rather angry tiger in the bathroom), with no memory of what happened the previous night. Oh, and Doug is missing.
The Hangover bolts together the currently hip bromedy genre with the occasionally successful technique of starting the story at the end. Rather than working backwards through time or using flashbacks, The Hangover never shows us the actual events of its central night. Rather, we join the ride as Phil, Stu and Alan try to find out what happened during the fateful few hours, while frantically looking for the missing Doug before his bride-in-waiting flips.
They also are facing the consequences of their actions, except that they have no memory of what their actions actually were. The characters and the audience together uncover the missing events, as Phil leads the group in following clues as diverse as a baby in a closet; a medical wrist-band; and Stu's missing tooth. Needless to say, they are being chased by an Asian gang, and one of them is now unexpectedly married (remember, this is Vegas) to no less than a tarty stripper (Heather Graham).
The film's story and structure are a solid foundation for a good comedy, and The Hangover is helped enormously by memorable if not quite original central characters. Phil (Bradley Cooper) is the cool friend who takes on an unlikely leadership role, while Stu (Ed Helms) is the conservative dentist fighting the shadow of an oppressive relationship. But the character of Alan (Zach Galifianakis) as the brother-in-law-in-waiting is wonderfully different. Suffice to say that Alan will always say and do the unexpected in the most awkward possible way, but he's so well developed as a character that his massive eccentricities soon emerge as consistent with his personality.
Under the guidance of patchy director Todd Phillips, The Hangover tries to generate a thick wall of jokes and funny events, and given the vast quantity, a large proportion does fall flat a bit too often. Much of the comedy is poorly developed, lacking in subtlety and sometimes just plain painful rather than funny. But the parts that do work, such as the rooftop gathering and the hotel room wake-up scene, are excellent.
Despite the uneven execution, The Hangover is worthwhile viewing, providing equal parts comedy and clever film-making.
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