Screenwriters: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Bradley Cooper, (interview) Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor
Running time: 99 mins
A movie about four men spending a debauched bachelor weekend in Las Vegas is hardly a riveting prospect. Yet despite sounding like a flatlining National Lampoon or American Pie offering, The Hangover is a slick, on-the-ball Warner Bros comedy from Todd Phillips, the man behind the likes of Old School and Starsky & Hutch. Phillips is hardly a revolutionary filmmaker, but he has a knack for turning bawdy, infantile comedy concepts into entertaining crowdpleasers. The Hangover is probably his funniest movie to date.
It finds thirtysomethings Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Alan (Galifianakis) taking their soon-to-be-wed pal Doug (Bartha) on one last drunken adventure before his wedding. The morning after their first alcohol-fuelled night they awake in their hotel room to find Doug missing. Regrouping in a panic, they go in search of their friend to get him back to Los Angeles in time for the big day. Scattered across the trashed penthouse suite are clues that will help them solve the mystery of his disappearance - among them a tiger in the bathroom stolen from a former boxing champ and a screaming baby that leads them to tart with a heart Jade (Graham).
The Hangover essentially plays out as a boisterous, close-to-the-bone comic take on The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons with its characters engaged in a race-against-the-clock mission. Ron Howard may see his Robert Langdon series as entertainment for the Mensa intellect, but The Hangover has no such pretensions and it's Phillips's comedy that's more satisfying and moves along with greater zip.
Like Old School, The Hangover explores the awkwardness of male bonding in its emotionally stunted protagonists. Phil, Stu and Alan come across as affable good-time guys, yet beneath the veneer they're fragile souls. Phil transforms from respectable schoolteacher into the group's aggressive alpha dog when work hours are over, dentist Stu has to tiptoe around his tyrannical girlfriend to even go on the Vegas trip, and socially maladjusted Alan often takes things a step too far trying to ingratiate with the group. Because of this dude dynamic Phillips relegates Graham, Sasha Barrese and Rachael Harris's characters to mere plot points. See The Hangover as a raucous antidote to chick flicks, though, and it hits the bullseye.
Refreshingly, Phillips keeps clear of familiar Frat Pack faces. Cooper is the cocky and capable Vince Vaughn stand-in, Helms refines his Office character, keeping suppressed anger and frustration from erupting, while scene-stealer Galifianakis is scarily convincing as a well-meaning oddball on his own plane of existence. Add a Phil Collins-loving Mike Tyson (still packing a fierce right hook), taser-happy school children and a photomontage of the 'lost night' that rolls over the end credits, and The Hangover amounts to a gut-bustingly funny boy's own comedy.
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