Monday, December 28, 2009

Home Video: The Hangover

The Hangover
Directed by Todd Phillips
Released June 5, 2009

2009 wasn’t a particularly good year for R-rated comedies. Some were far too raunchy (“Bruno”), some were raunchy but unfunny (“The Slammin’ Salmon”), some thought they were raunchy but weren’t (“I Love You, Man”), and some just plain weren’t raunchy at all (“Funny People”). But fortunately there’s one entry from the filmic libraries of 2009 where a comedy is just as crude as advertised, and ends up being much more hilarious than any other film this year. Summer smash “The Hangover” rights all the wrongs committed by the aforementioned films and comes out wondrously ahead.

What really makes “The Hangover” work is its cast of characters. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has no filter and shares all of his perverted, bizarre thoughts with everyone around him. Phil (Bradley Cooper) doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Stu (Ed Helms) cares way too much what everyone else thinks. And Doug (Justin Bartha)…well, there isn’t much information gleaned about Doug other than that he’s the groom. Setting the three of them out on a road trip to Las Vegas for a bachelor party the night before Doug’s wedding is an inspired setup, one where it’s clear within minutes of their departure and well before they even arrive at their hotel that it’s a bad idea. The title promises sinful activities that the boys will regret the following day, but the movie goes all out and doesn’t hold back and try to tame their wild extravaganza in any way.

The series of misadventures embarked upon and encountered by Alan, Phil, Stu, and Doug are altogether off-the-wall, and in some cases even plausible. Investigating their story with a magnifying glass might uncover several minor plot holes, but for the most part, the chain of events makes some sense. More importantly, their journey is one filled with outrageous humor that isn’t all related to bodily functions and the disgusting things they can do. A portion of the jokes are, including far too many shots of Galifianakis’ bare behind, but they’re played up for the utmost hilarity, and it all works, thanks in great part to the comedic skills of Galifianakis and his ability to say rather than just do funny things.

Comedies can be exceptionally funny if it seems like the characters are in on the joke and having a good time. In this case, because the story of what occurred during their fateful bachelor party night is unfurled as the events of the following day transpire, the characters are woefully unaware of what went on, and thus on edge and just as shocked and astounded by what they did as audiences. As they discover more of what happened, they begin to recall and comprehend what occurred, and at that point they get to be in on the joke, quietly applauding themselves for the fun they had even though the resulting state of affairs hardly seems worth it. “The Hangover” is a comedy about one really great night and one really bad day, and both parts are equally amusing, enthralling, revolting, and hilarious.


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