Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Hangover (2009)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, et al
Rated R, 100 minutes

"The Hangover" was something of a surprise hit, taking number 2 at the box office in its debut week with an impressive $43.7 million take; neck and neck with Pixar powerhouse "Up." I think this success can be attributed to its competition. The selection of R-rated comedies has been scant as of late. In the months leading up to "The Hangover," we had a sequel to "Night at the Museum," another darn Madea movie, "Star Trek," "Angels & Demons," and others. Guys with a funny bone haven't been served. They wanted another 2 hours of swearing and nudity. I think that propelled "The Hangover" to number one.

By the way, what the hell was up with "Land of the Lost?" That movie debuted the same weekend as "The Hangover" and came up terribly short (at $19.5 million). It had a big budget and Will Ferrell, but moviegoers knew better. The TV spots left me puzzled. Was this for families? There's Will Ferrell, but is this even a comedy?

Anyway, in "The Hangover," Doug is getting married. He has a Las Vegas bachelor party with his friends Stu and Phil (Helms and Cooper) and brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) tagging along. The night starts well meaning - just some liquor, gambling, and the promise of good times. Flash ahead to the morning after. Their luxury suite is in shambles. Doug is missing. What the hell happened?

The other three in our merry band search the city, retracing their steps to find Doug. I loved the device of showing us the aftermath of their night of debauchery, piecing together the actual events throughout the movie. It made the closing payoff that much better.

"The Hangover" seemed to be reaching for the pedigree of previous R-rated comedy smashes. In some scenes, it succeeded in producing big laughs with memorable setups. In others - like Mike Tyson's trailer-stealing cameo - this reaching interfered.

Justin Bartha appears at the beginning and end as the man having the wedding. He was pretty unlikable and generic, not really gelling with the other three. The movie's first scenes, with heaps of the Doug character, are light on the laughs compared to the scenes where he's absent later on.

Between the choice of music and some of the imagery, I had "Sopranos" flashbacks during the title sequence. If shown the first scene only, you'd be sure this wasn't a comedy. Just a few strange things to note given what I heard about this movie going in. Ed Helms does a predictably good Ed Helms, and I've always found Zach Galifianakis funny.


3.5 is my score for "90 minutes I didn't mind spending my time/money on." 3.25 says the same thing, but indicates I noticed a flaw. There were a lot of laughs in "The Hangover" - enough to get your money's worth. But there were some moments of nodding and smiling as well. There wasn't a buildup to a gut-busting scene or giant story revelation. As it stands now, it should be "that" guy movie for 2009. "The Hangover" is worth a night out, but seemed to lack what it takes to become a classic.

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