The Hangover

Like the aging douche bag frat boys at which it’s aimed, The Hangover comes on with a lot of testosterone and R-rated swagger promising something dangerous, subversive and funny. Sadly, a few shots of Jägermeister and a couple of laughs later, it’s exposed as just another balless example of its type. It makes a mildly amusing ass of itself for a while, but then it capitulates to box office forces with a soft, couples-friendly landing and you’re left with little more than a headache and a bad taste in your mouth.

You know the story: a group of friends in various stages of settling down hit Vegas for the bachelor party of a lifetime and they lose the groom along the way. The story begins the morning after and then follows the boys as they try to piece together exactly what happened to them so they can find their buddy and get him back home in time for the wedding.

It’s a promising high concept that’s never taken full advantage of. Nothing really raw ever happens and there’s never any genuine sense of danger. Even if there had been, none of the characters are likeable enough for you to care whether they make it out of Sin City alive or not. Ed Helms is the one about to get engaged to a shrew. He’s pretty much playing a variation on one of his TV characters from The Daily Show or The Office.

Bradley Cooper is the former cad who now bristles at his staid life of a job and marriage. Cooper has the potential to be a handsome leading man character, but there’s always something unlikable and sleazy below the surface. The shifty look in his eye and the brittle, weasely tone to his voice doom him to a career playing wimps or bad guys.

Stand up comic Zach Galifianakis makes the best impression as the loose canon, but the talent he shows on stage is largely cheapened and squandered here. He’s a 21st Century John Belushi who somehow seems less subversive despite having fewer taste boundaries to hem him in.

Of course, being a comedy you’re not worried about characters or story. The only important factor in judging The Hangover is how funny it is. Though humor is subjective, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy yourself if you thought the green band and red band trailers were amusing. Unfortunately, you’ll also have already seen all the best parts. The bit with the tiger, the bit with the tooth, the bit with Mike Tyson and the bit with Zach Galifianakis’s crude baby puppetry make up the movie’s comic backbone and they’re not nearly as funny the second time around.

By the same measure, the movie itself has nothing else to offer if the trailers didn’t impress you. Even the big surprise photographic reveal over the closing credits showing exactly how the lads spent their lost evening is disappointingly tame. The biggest shock and loudest laugh comes from seeing Galifianakis’s penis in a hooker’s mouth. It’s an image that pushes the boundaries of R-rated taste, but like the rest of The Hangover it’s not nearly as edgy as the filmmakers would have you believe.

The Hangover. USA 2009. Directed by Todd Phillips, Screenplay by Todd Phillips, Jeremy Garelick, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore from a story by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Music score composed by Christophe Beck. Edited by Debra Neil-Fisher. Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor and Ken Jeong. 1 hour 36 minutes. MPAA rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material. 2 stars (out of 5)

10 Responses to “Review: The Hangover (2009) **”

  1. Heard nothing but great things about this, even from people who hate movies of this type. I’m curious, to say the least.

  2. As I said in the review, if you liked the trailers, the movie offers more of the same so you’ll probably have a good time.

  3. I don’t want to say that I read bad things here, as I do not want to contradict what Matthew said above, but I doubt that my schedule will allow for a viewing here, as everything’s been so hectic, but we’ll see.

    Again a blunt and enveloping treatment here.

  4. Great review, or at least refreshing considering the impossible praise I’ve heard heaped upon this since last week from, as Matthew states, trusted friends and sources. I actually planned to see it last week and something came up. If I take your review to heart – and I feel like I should – I can rest assured I’m not missing anything. Great observation about Cooper’s characters, too. In my head he’s always the guy from Wedding Crashers.

  5. I can only remind you that comedy is subjective and the people in the audience I saw it with seemed to be having a pretty great time.

    I defy anyone to name me one part that wasn’t in either the green or red band trailers though that was funny.

    You’re a guy who doesn’t watch trailers so you may still find something to like about it.

    For me, Cooper is always Jennifer Garner’s lame boyfriend in whatsitcalled….that lame show of hers. Hated him then and I’ve disliked him ever since. Not as a person, but i always hate his characters.

  6. Well as much as I do avoid as many trailers as possible, I let slip when they are ridiculous comedies or I know that I’m never going to see them. In this case it was more of the former that had me watch, but yeah, it looked like they were pretty much milking every physical gag to squeeze into those two minutes.

  7. It’s sort of a Catch-22….if you like the humor in the trailer then the movie will be right up your alley…except you’ve already seen most of the best parts.

  8. Yep, that’s basically what I saw. But you forgot the rampant sexism.

    The thing I keep saying is that I miss the days when to be a great comedy, it had to be a real, complete film.

    Name one thing that happens in this film that’s as wild and crazy as the diaper robbery in Raising Arizona.

  9. But KB…the Chicken! and the missing tooth! and Tyson! And the naked gay Asian stereotype guy!!!

    Yeah. you’re right.

    Also, I have to say it’s gratifying to find someone who agrees with me on this one. The level of enthusiasm for this movie is a little depressing.

  10. Was it just me, or did they seem more excited to find Mike Tyson than the groom?

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