Wednesday, June 17, 2009


There are lots of reasons why I didn’t want to see The Hangover. First, it’s been lauded as one of the best comedies in years and I was worried that the film would not live up to its hype – films rarely do. I was also worried that the hype was generated purely by the hoi polloi who tend to laugh at anything – you know who you are – thus, that there was really nothing worth hyping in the first place. I was also worried that like Wedding Crashers – to which The Hangover has been compared – the film would rely on gross situational gags in lieu of originality, clever writing, or inspired performances. Bizarrely and perplexingly, this film does derive much of its humor from crude and lewd gags, but somehow still manages not to fall short of its lofty hype.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the best film ever. It isn’t profound or genius, nor will it change your outlook on life. But then again, it isn’t trying to. And what it is trying to do – tell a simple story in a hilarious way – is done exceedingly well. The premise is easy and you probably know it already: three men go to Las Vegas for their friend’s bachelor party. The only problem is, upon waking up (predictably hungover) after a night of wild debauchery - including a tiger, a baby, and a naked Chinese man - that none of them can remember, the groom is missing. The rest of the film is a loosely constructed mystery complete with clues in which the men try to piece together the events of their blacked out evening in an effort to locate their lost friend.

Both explicitly and in terms of its structure the film advocates that “it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there.” The film’s end goal of finding the groom is entirely secondary to the fun that is experienced along the way. The film is akin to many “roadtrip” films like Harold and Kumar in that the characters are propelled through a loose narrative via a series of relatively unconnected but entirely enjoyable episodes with an end goal that is really just a MacGuffin. However, while so many films of this nature can be poorly constructed and tiring, The Hangover is tightly written, well edited and the pace never lags.

Also, though the film has so many examples of crude humor and un-PC scenarios that it makes Wedding Crashers look like the clichéd, essentially G-rated, by-the-book family film that it really is, The Hangover is still inexplicably pretty charming. I think the film manages to be both raunchy and endearing because it doesn’t use these gags merely to cover up for a weak plot or sub par acting. Instead, the film succeeds in part because of these jokes but also by it’s clever construction and excellent performances. All three of the male leads are superbly portrayed and strangely likeable despite their idiocy. I must say, in particular Ed Helms really stands out – he’s my favorite character in the American version of The Office and he’s great here as the dorkily uptight and domesticated dentist. I feel like this guy’s going to become the next big comic actor, you wait and see. Zak Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper are also excellent and the supporting cast is great as well.

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