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movies / June 7, 2009

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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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13 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Geoduck  |  June 7th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Anyone who gives money to Mike Tyson to appear in public should be.. what’s sufficiently cruel? ..forced to hang out with Mike Tyson?

  • 2. fajensen  |  June 8th, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Maybe you need to be drunk before watching the movie?

  • 3. SoSerious  |  June 8th, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Meh, it was funny the way Old School was funny:

    Makes you laugh the first time around, but after your friends and coworkers repeat the “funny parts” in it ad nauseam for the next week (or 3, depending on how lame your friends are) you’ll never want to watch it again.

  • 4. Warren Moon  |  June 8th, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I had a similar reaction to this movie. I was getting worried because everyone seems to think this is the funniest thing ever. Parts of it are legitimately funny, parts are obvious, parts are rip offs (if it was a good movie they would be “nods”) to other movies. It’s worth seeing if you don’t have anything else to do.

  • 5. Chinaman  |  June 8th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    There is a tiger in the bathroom.

  • 6. James Bowman  |  June 9th, 2009 at 11:05 am

    “Oh, what the heck? You only live once. Give me a white wine spritzer…”

  • 7. aleke  |  June 9th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    White Wine spritzer…spritzer…spritzer

    I went to see it to enjoy Zach Galifianakis and that Daily Show guy who plays Andy and I did

  • 8. molly  |  June 10th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been for all the (over-)hype. I consider it an above average comedy, but was ultimately disappointed because it didn’t keep me laughing throughout, and definitely didn’t live up to its currently inflated IMDb rating placing it between The Wizard of Oz and There Will Be Blood. Zach Galifianakis on the roof was my high point, and it plateaued from there.

  • 9. Balaji Kartha  |  July 15th, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I went to see this movie without any prior knowledge of it nor reading any reviews.
    And I really enjoyed it.
    Of course the direction was mediocre, the acting lackluster – but the script (and dialogues – in some places) stood out.
    That was the what made this movie enjoyable.
    Ed Helms & Zach Galifianakis were good and added to the fun.
    Therefore, I would say – you can see this movie – at least once.

  • 10. Mark  |  July 16th, 2009 at 8:14 am

    The movie’s even worse than Eileen suggests. Movies like Old School and Wedding Crashers are comedy masterpieces in comparison to this mess of a movie. The guy with the beard, who is supposed to be the movie’s secret weapon or something, is not funny at all. The bits are exaggerated to the point of being totally unrealistic and just plain stupid. (Yeah, like they really woulda been able to break into Mike Tyson’s estate in the middle of the night. And, right, nobody was even injured after their car smashed into from the side b y an SUV tank driving at full speed.) I thought the only well-written joke in the whole movie was the one about Mapquest.

  • 11. Rob  |  April 8th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I totally agree with mark it was a dumb movie i could tell just by watching the previews i didn’t even bother to rent it was forced to watch it disappointed i rather see operation Repo it’s more funny sometimes

  • 12. Rodney  |  April 20th, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I totally agree. At the end of the movie I see the pictures of their “wild night” and though THAT’S the movie I wanted to see. I just saw Hot Tub time machine and it was much funnier than this movie.

    Sam one note premise but with much funnier Actors
    John Cusack >Bradley Cooper
    Rob Corddry >`Ed Helms
    Craig Robinson > Zach Galifiankis

    Plus the brilliant nerdness of Clark Duke

    not to mention the inspired genius of Crispin Glover..

    Same week story and script but with better funnier people they can make ANYTHING hilarious

  • 13. Todd  |  July 9th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I just finished bothering to watch this movie. At what point was it supposed to start getting funny again?

    If people thought this movie was hysterical, then they’d need to wear oxygen masks in order to sit through Bachelor Party w/ Tom Hanks. (Older flick but much better)


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