I’m supposed to be reviewing The Hangover here, but the problem is I saw it when hung over and can’t remember much of it. That’s what you call “irony.”
(Manhattans and red wine, if you must know.)
I’d heard that this movie is so funny I’d be in convulsions over it, so I went in there hopeful, because personally I like to be convulsed with laughter, but after awhile I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe my hangover was at fault; maybe the audience was one of those tough crowds and that put a damper on things; or maybe, just maybe, the movie drags like a half-detached muffler and for some reason nobody wants to mention it.
The Hangover is about a bachelor party in Las Vegas and the guys who wake up next morning and can’t remember how they trashed their hotel suite, acquired various personal injuries, and took on custodianship of a baby, a tiger, and a chicken. Oh, and lost the fourth member of their group, the groom-to-be Doug (Justin Bartha).
Here my viewing experience was also impaired, in that I attended the screening with someone who can unriddle the plot of every movie as soon as he sees the set-up. He can name that tune in one note. Citizen Kane: it’s a sled. The Crying Game: she’s a man. The Sixth Sense: he’s a ghost. And so on. So when the hapless Hangover dudes realize they’ve lost Doug and will have to organize the rest of the movie around tracking him via their assortment of strange clues, this companion of mine leans over and tells me where Doug is. And he was right; he’s always right. So there was that.
I felt sad, because I kind of like movies about insane high-living nights with massive consequences and wished I could’ve enjoyed this one more. It has some laughs; I definitely remember laughing several times. There was a scene involving schoolchildren tasering our protagonists while egged on by cops, I know I laughed at that. Rob Riggle from The Daily Show was one of the cops. I recall Mike Tyson in a few scenes. In the previews it looked like he’d be hilarious, but it’s the quick cutting that generally makes previews funny. They pick up the pace in previews. Tyson’s not an actor, obviously, and it’s pretty painful the way the scenes grind along as he lisps out his lines and the other cast-members stand around trying to stay in character.
The movie has some good actors. Ed Helms (The Office, The Daily Show) is always great at impersonating an actual human. Here he plays Stu the nebbishy dentist escaping from his ball-busting girlfriend (who will be told off in fine, manly fashion at the end). He hooks up with the only likable female in the film, the obligatory golden-hearted stripper/sex worker (Heather Graham, who’s funny and really deserves a better career than she’s got, what the hell’s up with that?). Bradley Cooper shoulders the modern-bastard burden as Phil the cynical sleazebag, fleeing from the teaching career and wife and son he claims, convincingly, to hate. And Zach Galifianakis is Alan, Doug’s pudgy, bearded, gnome-like, soon-to-be brother-in-law, a repugnant man-child whose every utterance stops the conversation cold. (“Is this the real caesar’s palace?”)
We get an implied homage to Sideways in Stu’s cover story to his girlfriend: he claims he and his pals are going on a wine-tasting trip. The movie also seems indebted to Sideways in some of the odd tonal ugliness we get mixed in with the fantastical chicken-tiger-baby hijinx. It’s as if, as an extra added bonus, along with the yuks, we’ll also get a hard-edged glimpse of these men as unfunny assholes leading creepy, degraded lives. As reviewer Desson Thompson says in The Washington Post, director Todd Phillips (Old School) and screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore “shift the crass comedy subgenre into the edgy environs of post-film noir.”
Look, guys, if I want an edgy post-film noir comedy, I’ll ask for it. You just hold your breath till I ask. I was looking for the type of comedy that has a chicken in it, as prominently advertised, connoting laughs. Laughs strung together in rapid succession, gaining momentum en route to a hilarious finish. No sodden lulls involving pudgy men-children who are genuinely worried about their missing friend, who might be dead. No sketch comedy-type misery when the sketch isn’t working but it must be doggedly pursued to the end, like the lame confrontation with the mincingly effeminate Asian gangster in the desert.
However, like I said, I was feeling a little under the weather when I saw this thing, and everybody else seems to love it. I prefer The Simpsons’ version, with Homer and Ned Flanders acquiring “Vegas wives” after their spectacular binge. But that’s just me.
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