The Hangover Review

The Hangover
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson

thehangover1

Although the summer has become primarily the domain of special effects blockbusters, there will always be high demand for a few solid feel-good comedies as well. While the ones with the biggest stars inevitably tend to get the most attention, this year it may be a different story.

The Hangover does not have an Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell to rely on to bring in the crowds, so instead, it has been forced to build buzz the old fashioned way: by being hilarious. To be fair, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are not entirely unknown (Ed Helms currently stars in The Office, while Cooper is known for his roles in Alias and movies like Wedding Crashers and Yes Man), but they’re also far from being bankable Hollywood A-list actors (yet). In this case, their relative anonymity is precisely what makes the movie work. None of these guys overshadow the film with their own established personalities, and instead they create a dynamic that is natural and relatable as a group of friends involved in a bachelor party gone wrong in Las Vegas.

The Hangover is, in essence, a creative twist on the “one crazy night” and “road trip” comedy templates. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into much detail as far as the plot is concerned; all you need to know is that a groom and his three groomsmen head out for a night of debauchery, and then wake up in the morning to find that their hotel room has been completely trashed and the groom has vanished. They have no recollection of what happened the night before, but as they try to retrace their steps, things get more and more out of hand.

One of the movie’s greatest strengths is the way in which the story is told; the audience is kept in suspense as the mystery unravels essentially in real-time. The shared state of confusion between the audience and the characters only serves to heighten the hilarity. I can’t think of too many comedies that use this little narrative trick, but it works wonders here. While it could limit the film’s replay value if the humour was too heavily dependent on shocks and surprises, this is not the only thing the movie has going for it.

As I mentioned, the chemistry between the cast is top notch, and much like the show Entourage, it isn’t about brilliant jokes and punchlines so much as it is about that feeling of camaraderie and trash talking among close friends who are stuck in a tense predicament. The script alone isn’t extraordinary (it’s written by the same guys who did Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and Rebound starring Martin Lawrence), but when combined with the incredulous reactions of the actors and what I assume are some improvised bits, it all becomes that much more infectious. The movie has a great sense of pacing for the most part, and manages to keep upping the ante and increasing the energy level along the way.

thehangover2

Although there isn’t any one actor whose individual performance makes the movie, I have to admit that Zach Galifianakis kind of steals the show. Ed Helms is the responsible square of the group, and Bradley Cooper is the straight man with a frat boy sensibility, but Galifianakis is the wild card. His character is introduced as an outsider to the group, being the brother of the bride, so no one quite knows what to expect from him. Viewers unfamiliar with Galifianakis may anticipate a stereotypical obnoxious fat guy act, but he turns this idea completely on its head with his strange demeanor, soft-spoken delivery and weird, sensitive moments. There’s no question that this is going to be a breakout role for him.

One supporting actor who brings a pretty noteworthy solo performance as well is Ken Jeong (Role Models, Knocked Up). His turn as the quirky Asian gangster Mr. Chow is so out there that you can’t help but laugh, and is certainly going to be another one of the most talked about elements of this film. Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) also has a few funny moments as the father of the bride, and Heather Graham looks good while breastfeeding (!). Then, of course, there’s Mike Tyson.

Out of all the stuff that had the most potential, I felt that Mike Tyson’s scenes fell a bit flat. Maybe it’s because some of those moments were spoiled in the trailers, and maybe it’s just because Tyson is more funny in real life than in a scripted comedy. It could also be that it felt like they were checking off “ironic celebrity cameo” from their checklist of required elements for a successful comedy (they also have a musical number, full frontal male nudity, and yes, everyone’s favourite buzzword: bromance). There were also a few scenes that felt like they were upping the obscenities in order to inject life into some dull dialogue. All that aside though, the cards are just stacked so much in favour of The Hangover that it’s hard to imagine anyone not having a good time with it.

The movie is even pretty visually impressive for a summer comedy; Todd Phillips (Old School, Starsky and Hutch) knows how to take things to the next level, and cinematographer Lawrence Sher previously shot such indie films as Garden State and The Promotion. I particularly loved the way they put together the gambling sequence that parodies movies like 21 and Rain Man.

The bottom line is that The Hangover is a great movie to watch with a crowd, and by the time it reaches the soon-to-be-legendary end credits, there’s a strong chance you and everyone around you will be rolling in the aisles. How they managed to maintain an R-rating here is beyond me, but it is such a brilliant way to cap off the film that it seems only appropriate.

We’ve still got Year One, Bruno and Funny People to look forward to, but already I think there’s a good chance The Hangover will end up being the biggest comedy of the summer. If not in terms of box office numbers, then at least in terms of lasting impressions. This is one road trip you don’t want to skip. — Sean

SCORE: 3.5 stars



Recommended If You Like: Old School, Wedding Crashers, Very Bad Things, Entourage

Around the Web:



  • Robby Gonzalez

    Mr. Chow was unbelievably funny. I hope he’s just as outrageous in Part II. It’s interesting that Mr. Chow is Chinese, but Ken Jeong is actually Korean. I wonder if that is an intentional insult towards the Chinese? He has to pay the role of Kim Jong Il in the movie. All I know is Ken Jeong is one funny little bastard!

  • T. A. SMITH

    This movie sucks; bordering on beastiality and child molestation. the ending scenes were awful; should have been rated X…….