7
Jun
2009
Review: The Hangover
The Hangover
Jordan
The Hangover, the new film by Old School director Todd Phillips, tells the extremely original story of four guys heading to Vegas for a bachelor party. The gang is all there"”The pretty flat, personality-less groom (Justin Bartha), the "player" who is just out to have a good time (Bradley Cooper), the weird guy (Zach Galifianakis) and the geeky guy trapped in a relationship with an overbearing woman and afraid to let go (Ed Helms). It's pretty much the characters from Old School going to a bachelor party instead of starting a fraternity.

Sadly this movie lacks most of the things that make Old School such a great comedy. Bradley Cooper is clearly this film's Vince Vaughan, yet he forgets to imbue his character with anything near the effortless charm that backed Vaughan's performance and made his smarminess seem oddly lovable"”by contrast Cooper's Phil is just a douche bag who leaves his wife at home without a thought or a mention to get drunk, and likely get laid, by random women in Vegas. Ed Helms is obviously taking over the Will Ferrell role, yet where Ferrell's Frank was lovably aloof, Helms' Stu is often just annoyingly up-tight. And it's not saying anything groundbreaking to suggest that Justin Bartha is no Luke Wilson.

The shining star of the cast is without a doubt Galiafianakis, whose Alan is eccentric beyond belief, and has no idea how to fit in with the frat-ish antics going on around him. He defines himself as a "lone wolf" who has now made his pack three wolves larger. He's far too oblivious to see that he was brought along to be nice, and Galiafianakis allows him to be in equal parts endearing and creepy, lovable and utterly insane. Without Alan, the movie would easily sink into a cesspool of obviousness and telegraphed jokes.

The plot really gets started when Phil, Stu, and Alan wake up in their suite with a chicken, a blow up doll, a tiger, and no Doug. Their friend is missing, his wedding is in one day, and they have no memory of the previous night. The set-up is pretty much Dude Where's My Car? in Vegas and with an extra guy along for the ride. What the film lacks in originality it attempts to make up for in flat out hilarity, and in succeeds in places. A subplot involving a baby found in the room (and dubbed "Carlos" by Alan), his stripper/escort of a mother (played humorously by Heather Graham) and her marriage to the "unlikeliest" character brings far more laughs than another involving two taze-happy cops which feels like the most predictable string of jokes imaginable. I also have to confess to enjoying a cameo-cum-subplot from Mike Tyson more than I probably should have.

Another of the film's flaws is that Phil, Stu, and Doug never feel like the lifelong friends we are meant to believe they are. Additionally, Stu's shrew of a girlfriend (Rachael Harris) feels every inch the cliché she is"”there is no conceivable reason for her to be such an emasculating bitch except for to allow Stu the chance to grow as a character in the film's single most predictable arc (which is saying something).

That's not to say there is no good, however. The film keeps the laughs coming pretty regularly throughout its running time. There is never a dull moment, even if some of the jokes do feel a little stale. And while the movie doesn't have a whole lot to love, there isn't much to hate there either"”while it doesn't always succeed, it does always try convincingly and it deserves some credit for that. I consistently laughed throughout the movie, more than I expected to, and maybe more than I'd like to admit. The movie is predictable, poorly developed, and pretty funny on the whole. It may not light your year on fire, but it's definitely not the worst thing you could do with 100 minutes on a hot summer day.

Grade: B-
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