Review of “The Hangover”

pretIn Madonna-esque fashion, Heather Graham’s character lowered her top and offered her breast to her baby. Seconds later, a police officer knocks down the door and aims a gun at our three main characters and yells for someone to “shut that baby up.” A couple seconds later still, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are shown handcuffed in a police station. In short, a lot happened in a very short period of time.

That, perhaps, is the best way to describe The Hangover in its entirety. Running a mere 96 minutes, director Todd Phillips (Old School) makes crams as many cameo and small appearances in as humanly possible.( Jeffrey Tambor, Heather Graham, Mike Epps, Mike Tyson, Rachael Harris, Rob Riggle, and Ken Jeong, to name a few.)  Similar to Old School, Phillips relies on his ensemble cast to carry the movie. Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis  are surprisingly successful in their attempts to fill the void left by Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell. The frenetic pace of the movie leaves little time for character development or any real emotional build up.

What you see is what you get. A bunch of guys went to Vegas, got drunk, and tried to remember what happened. Nothing more, nothing less. As weird and hysterical Galifianakis’ character is, the audience never develops a meaningful attachment to his character. Or Cooper’s or Helms’ for that matter. We learn all there is to know about the three characters within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. The Hangover lacks the emotional depth of a Judd Apatow comedy, and for that reason, it is not nearly as rewatchable. The comedy is not character driven.  It is instead powered by the outrageous little bits. The more times an individual watches the movie, the less new the bits become and the more difficult it is to watch. On the first view, the audience is whisked away from one outlandish scenario to another. This method is overwhelimingly successful and continually funny. Despite the repetitiveness of the formula, many of the jokes throughout the movie have a fresh feel to them.

However, by the end of the movie the audience grows tired of the incessant moving back and forth between what are essentially different vignettes. Despite the movie’s relatively short run time of 96 minutes, it seems to drag on a bit. By choosing an ensemble cast and divvying up screen time equally, there is no break out star for the audience to rally behind. (Although I suppose Galifianakis is considered the break out star considering the number of people who will end up quoting him after walking out of the theater.) When the jokes run out, the audience’s interest in the story runs out, too. However, once again, Phillips is prepared for this audience withdrawal. The ending credits are sure to recapture anyones interest in a series of groans followed by laughter.

The Hangover is wildly successful as being what it wants to be. It does not try to be sweet and sentimental like Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Knocked Up. In an era in which Apatow and others have embraced and redfined “the loser”, Phillips seems unwilling to welcome this change. In The Hangover, the losers don’t end up a happy father to Katherine Heigl’s baby. They just don’t manage to totally screw up a wedding. This movie was meant to be an hour and a half of wild, boorish behavior, led by the hysterical Zach Galifianakis. And, make no mistake, when you walk out of the theater you will be thinking (or saying, depending on how annoying you want to be to the people you saw the movie with) of one of Galifianakis’ many great lines. It’s not about falling in love or dealing with rejection. It’s about booze. It’s about Vegas. It’s about tits. And for that reason, I suppose the movie can be considered a success.

Grade: B

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