The Hangover ****
Every summer the movie industry unleashes a barrage of blockbusters upon cinemagoers, hoping to score big bucks at the box office. The biggest movies are the ones that are hyped up well in advance of the film’s release and that you can’t help but be aware of but amongst all the big budget effects spectaculars there is always an underdog that has its day, on occasion even managing to completely eclipse the biggest movies that Hollywood has to offer. Such a movie has come to be known as the sleeper hit and it is fast becoming a staple of summer cinema, and the sleeper hit of summer 2009 is undoubtedly The Hangover, a film that no one had even heard of just a few short months ago but thanks to terrific word of mouth generated by the hilarious trailer and excellent reviews from film critics has turned into one of the must see events of the year, already giving major blockbusters a run for their money across the pond. Despite not being hyped us as far in advance as most blockbusters, it is fair to say that The Hangover has a lot of anticipation to live up to and fortunately it is one of those films that actually does live up to its hype.
In two days time Doug (Justin Bartha) is going to marry the love of his life Tracy (Sasha Barrese). Before that, however, is his bachelor party for which he is heading off to Las Vegas for a night on the town he will never forget along with his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), a school teacher unhappy with his life, and Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist whose life is ruled by his dominating girlfriend, and his soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), a seemingly dim-witted loner. What is supposed to be a night that none of them will ever forget, however, soon turns into a night none of them can remember as Phil, Stu and Alan wake up the morning after to find that Doug is missing. With no memory of anything that happened during the night, the three of them must attempt to retrace their steps if there is any hope of finding the groom and getting to the wedding on time and in one piece. Each retraced step reveals a new clue about where Doug is and as they put all the pieces together they uncover the most insane night out ever, involving a tiger, a baby, a hen, a missing tooth, a stolen police car, a trip to the hospital, a drunken marriage, gangsters, incompetent cops and Mike Tyson.
In a similar vein to the Ashton Kutcher/Sean William Scott film Dude, Where’s My Car? but actually funny (and smart), The Hangover is helmed by Todd Phillips, the man behind Old School and Starsky & Hutch. Phillips has shown a unique talent for bringing a smart touch to films that sound extremely dumb and proves the perfect choice of director for this project, taking something that could have been extremely lowbrow and unfunny and making it into a film that manages to be genuinely funny without resorting to many of the typical clichés and conventions of R rated comedies such as this, and that is actually quite smart in its execution. This isn’t to say that the humour is soft in any way, however, as the humour is extremely crude and at times quite distasteful, just that it is executed with such a sense of charm and intelligence that even though you may feel like you shouldn’t be laughing you will and you won’t feel too guilty for it. It should be noted, however, that this may not be a film for anyone who is too easily offended as some content may be considered offensive, particularly some of the nudity, which is rather gross, this being one of the low points of the film, although thankfully only accounting for a brief amount of time. Regardless of whether or not the humour is to your taste, however, there is no denying that this is one of the most original comedies seen in a long time, with the concept making for one of the most screwed up comedies ever. The script written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who previously wrote Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases) is sharp and witty and delivers some completely insane scenarios that are so out there that they are almost worth a star in their own right. The story flows excellently with all the pieces of the puzzle falling perfectly into place, and the characters are also extremely well developed with some very good dialogue being given to them. The strength of the characters is as much down to the actors, though, and in the acting department the film really delivers. Rather than established big name stars, the low key cast is made up of relatively unknown comedy actors, all of whom excel in their portrayals of their characters, each completely unique from the rest. It is clear that new comic talent has surfaced. The cameo appearance by Mike Tyson is also a highlight with the former boxer proving quite natural at comedy in one of the film’s funniest scenes. Other members of the cast include Heather Graham, who is quite sweet as a stripper who finds herself involved in the group’s night on the town, Ken Jeong as an over the top gangster who they get on the wrong side of and Jeffrey Tambor as the father of the bride. Overall, The Hangover is one of the most unique comedies seen in quite a while, taking a tired formula and making it seem fresh again. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, particularly anyone easily offended, but for those who like comedy that doesn’t shy away from breaking boundaries this is certainly the movie for you.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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