13 June 2009

Movie Review: The Hangover


A-

The Hangover
2009, 100mins, R
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer (s): Scott Moore, Jon Lucas
Cast includes: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Mike Tyson
Release Date: 5th June 2009

It’s hard to place exactly where the high expectation for “The Hangover” generated from. The trailers where solid but not overly raucous or hysterical, the premise modest if not particularly original and the cast filled largely with newcomers or folk who have been unsuccessfully trying to crack Hollywood for several years. Yet somehow the picture mounted a considerable amount of buzz and by release time anticipation levels where actually at a credible level. So it’s a shock that “The Hangover” exceeds those expectations massively, as is the case with all great comedies “The Hangover” as a feature is far more impressive than any of the promotional material backing it up. It’s rich in fresh and deliriously wacky laughs and features at least three performances that could rocket cast members to the industry A lists. Barely a moment floats by without a sizeable chuckle and in some instances full blown belly laughs rocketed up to 11. It’s that good.

The basic conceit at the film’s heart is essentially the slightly tired bachelor party gone wrong shenanigans that have populated a plethora of dreadful comedies, but “The Hangover” is so much fun that it almost makes the idea seem new. On the weekend before he gets married Doug (Justin Bartha) is letting his two best friends and fiancĂ©es brother take him up to Las Vega’s for one last weekend of debauchery before he ties the knot. His buddies consist of Phil (Bradley Cooper) the cocky yet unhappily married alpha male of the group, Stu (Ed Helms) a neurotic guy utterly whipped by his domineering girlfriend and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) Doug’s quirky and slightly crazed brother in law. The night starts with shots on the rooftops but descends into anarchy with the protagonists waking in their trashed hotel room hung over and with no goddamn clue as to what occurred the evening before. More importantly Doug is nowhere to be seen and so with only the ridiculous combination of a baby, a chicken, a tiger in the bathroom and a hospital admittance wrist band they retrace their steps in a bid to find the groom and discover what the hell went down the night before.

The chemistry between the three leads is outstanding in “The Hangover”. Cooper, Bradley and Galifianakis deliver fantastic comedic performances sure to launch each into megastar careers and make them for the moment at least gods of modern day farce. In order for their search for the lost groom to work the group dynamic has to be perfect and the trio nail it, throwing up all types of comedy and playing each as efficiently and skillfully as the last. Helms is the straight man, Galifianakis the larger than life cartoon whilst Cooper has to juggle a bit of both as the search parties unofficial leader. As a group they’re believable and hysterical, the script asks the audience to believe that Helms and Cooper are old friends and they really unearth the requisite acting bond to make such a task reality whilst Galfianakis is superb as the oddball but viciously funny brother of the bride. It’s a team effort in the truest sense and by god is it a band of brothers deserving of a win. Justin Bartha has only a smallish part to play which isn’t a big loss seeing as he is insufferably irritating but Heather Graham is sweet and tender as a stripper the guys meet on their travels. It’s clear that the only performances which really count are the leading lads but Graham flourishes that naturally charming touch that made her a star in the first place, and which has been unforgivably wasted in the direct to DVD market for the last half decade.

The director is Todd Phillips who has made a living creating frat boy style mayhem since 2000’s “Road Trip”. Since then he’s been the creative artist behind intermittently amusing efforts like “Old School” and “Starsky and Hutch” but never has he directed a comedy as gut bustlingly hilarious as “The Hangover”. Phillips shows that with a consistently effective script he can direct great comedy and so applause to Scott Moore and Jon Lucas for giving him the screenplay on which he really proves himself. In writing “The Hangover” Moore and Lucas have twisted and reformed an ancient comedy template, granting it a new lease of life through their innovative jokes and sheer imagination. The dialogue pings away at a merry old rate and some of the twists devised for the trio of halfwits to stumble through are ingenious; it’s hard to believe these are the same men who penned “Four Christmases”. The sheer goof factor and energetic extremes that Moore and Lucas drive the script to is outstanding, sure we’ve seen Vegas set flicks with Strippers……but what about Mike Tyson’s tiger and campy Chinese mobsters? However maybe the greatest achievement is that amidst the delightful comedy going on the writers along with the actors keep us routing for the central figures, by the final third of the feature the audience is really willing them on to find Doug. In many ways it’s the fact that the project manages genuine audience empathy and a stack of surreally brilliant gags which mark it out as such a cinematic banquet.

The movie is filled with crudity (the final credits are to be missed for those easily disgusted) but it’s also absolutely witty and frequently hilarious, only those with no funny bone could possibly find this an unsatisfying motion picture. I was stricken by just how entertaining I found “The Hangover” and despite some rather neat buddy comedies of late (“Pineapple Express” jumped to mind on a few occasions) it’s easily a true genre highlight of the last ten years. There is no point in denying that the film doesn’t tip toe around sheer idiocy but that’s all part of the beauty, so frantic and god damn funny one has to embrace the sheer stupidity of the situation to fully mine the layers of generous laughter beneath. I found “The Hangover” to be a full proof comedy treat and along with “Star Trek” the most endearing popcorn flick of the summer thus far. This is one hangover worth getting.


A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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