#204 The Hangover

(2009, Todd Phillips)

“Why don’t we remember a god damn thing from last night?”

I’ve mentioned before how much I hate reviewing comedies. If a comedy makes me laugh, it’s good, and if it doesn’t, it isn’t. Plus analysing comedy just makes me feel like a dull human being who needs to get out more. I do need to get out more, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, let’s try and do this thing. Here’s The Hangover.

The Hangover is about a group of guys attending a bachelor party in Las Vegas. The groom-to-be is Doug (Justin Bartha), accompanied by his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), as well as Doug’s socially inept future brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). However, the morning after, Doug is missing and the other three guys don’t remember a thing about the previous night. Also, Stu’s missing a tooth, there’s a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in a cupboard. It’s up to the trio to find Doug and figure just what the hell they’d got up to.

The Hangover is absurd. Pretty much everything in this movie is silly and out there and wouldn’t possibly happen in reality. It’s a complete exercise in fantasy, taking the concept of a hangover to its absolute extremes, presenting a series of scenarios that are over-the-top and go way beyond what a bunch of drunk guys would really get up to in Vegas.

And that’s why The Hangover is funny. It’s very unlikely that anyone’s ever had a real hangover on the scale of this, but the sheer bafflement experienced by the viewer increases so much over the course of the movie that it’s impossible not to laugh.

But there’s something else about this movie that makes it work so well. Modern comedies have a terrible tendency to be a loosely assembled collection of jokes and set-pieces, and whether they’re actually funny or not is up for debate. But what The Hangover does to elevate itself above this is set up an actual plot with actual characters, all culminating in an actual beginning, middle and end in amongst the absurdity. That’s right, the movie is completely ridiculous, but it makes sense within its own twisted logic.

Each of the three men we spend most of the movie with has distinct personalities, and those personalities extend beyond simple comic clichés. Phil is a terrible human being who uses his position as a teacher to extort the money for his Vegas trip out of his students, but discovers a strong leadership streak and works well as the most level-headed of the trio. Stu is a meek man with a domineering girlfriend who gradually learns to become more confident and headstrong. And Alan is…well, Alan. A hairy man child who becomes slightly less socially inept over the course of the movie. Slightly.

The plot, for all its absurdity, holds together surprisingly well. Everything has an explanation, and there are no lingering plot-threads aside from the unexplained presence of a chicken, which I can let slide. The tiger is explained, and results in a partly-amusing, partly-embarrassing Mike Tyson cameo. The tooth is explained, and its explanation results in a forehead-slapping “I should have figured that out” reaction. The baby is explained and swiftly removed from the movie. And the conclusion of what happened to Doug is logical and silly in equally measures. For a silly movie full of silly things, the plot takes itself reasonably seriously. Which kind of makes things even funnier, because this isn’t something that should take itself seriously.

I want to pick faults in The Hangover, since that’s kind of what the point of writing these movie reviews is, but I was laughing too much to notice or particularly care for any faults. Maybe if you don’t like brash, loud American comedies, I guess, but even then, this does so much right that so many of its contemporaries do wrong.

I have little else to say. The Hangover is a funny movie. No, The Hangover is a hilarious movie, and I’m not going to waste any more of your time sitting here analysing why it’s funny. It just is. Watch it.

And do drink responsibly.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha & Jeffrey Tambor
Written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Produced by Todd Phillips & Daniel Goldberg
Music by Christophe Beck
Cinematography by Lawrence Sher
Edited by Debra Neil-Fisher

Favourite Scene: The appearance of a naked Chinese man in the boot of their car (once they find it) is pretty much all you need to know about the level of absurdity this movie reaches.
Scene That Bugged Me: Kind of trailed off a little at the end, but it’s not a major concern.

Watch it if: You like ridiculous over-the-top American comedies
Avoid it if: You like your movie hangovers to be accurate and involving four hours hunched over a toilet bowl before crawling back into bed

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Posted on July 24, 2013, in 2000s, Comedy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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