Monday, June 8, 2009

How's It Hanging?

The Hangover is one of those movies described as "the sleeper hit of the summer" because it's so dull that it puts people to sleep.
I love that line. It was how I had planned to open this review of The Hangover before I saw it and simply assumed it was going to suck. Since I ended up liking it, I was unable to use it. Except I did use it so SUCK ON THAT, LOSERS! (Please note that the previous remark was directed only at those of you who are losers. If you are a winner, please do not suck on anything.)

The plot is very simple and exists mainly as a clothesline upon which numerous funny adventures can be hung. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married so he and three buddies head to Vegas for his bachelor party. These three buddies include Phil (Bradley Cooper), his somewhat amoral friend who finances his part of the trip by literally stealing money from the kids he teaches. Also, there's Stu (Ed Helms) who is made by Phil to feel ashamed of the fact that he's a dentist and "not a real doctor" and is possibly the most whipped guy ever. He lies to his controlling, shrewish girlfriend Melissa (fellow Daily Show alum Rachael Harris) and says that the bachelor party will actually be taking place in Napa Valley's Wine Country. What truly highlights the pathetic state of Stu's life is that Melissa once cheated on him and he actually defends her by saying that the guy, "never came inside her." Finally, you have Alan (comedian Zack Galifianakis), Doug's soon-to-be brother-in-law who is both crude and at least a little bit insane.

With a cast that is equal parts wacky and zany, the stage is set for wacky zaniness. If there's one lesson this movie has to teach, it's "Don't drink heavily even two days before your wedding" and proves it by showing them taking their first drink and cutting to the next morning. As they come to from their drink-and-drug induced coma, they discover that their room is in shambles and, somehow, there is now a tiger in their bathroom. Stu is missing a tooth and, most importantly, Doug, the groom, is nowhere to be found. Oops, almost forgot, there's a baby in their closet. Thus, their epic Heroes Journey begins as they search for leads to find Doug and get him back to Los Angeles in time for his wedding.

One of the first things they discover is that they've also lost track of the precious Mercedes that Alan's father lent them for the trip and that they have somehow procured a police car. A lead takes them to one of the many wedding chapels in Las Vegas where Stu discovers that he got married to a stripper played by Heather Graham, a woman who has so utterly mastered the role of a woman who makes a living by taking off her clothes that she could teach a class on the subject. It turns out that the baby is hers so that's one mystery solved but still no sign of Doug.

Other adventures include a naked Chinese man in their trunk, a meeting with Mike Tyson, and the discovery that Alan can do Rain Man style card counting all of which adds up to a very funny movie.

I was very, very skeptical about this going in as the trailer didn't make me laugh like it should have. It also had three strikes against it in the form of director Todd Phillips whose best previous effort was the very uneven Old School and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore whose two previous efforts were the stupid Four Christmases and the godawful Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Perhaps taking people who had previously made bad movies and combining their talents like this is a new winning formula. Oh, what a winning formula it was. This movie with no stars made more than twice the money as Will Farrell's big special effects film Land of the Lost, another movie that I am currently assuming will suck. I'm betting my assumptions will be closer to reality this time around.

To put it simply, if you're not put off by low brow comedy, you'll probably like The Hangover. This was the perfect antidote to An American Carol which I had watched earlier in the day (more about that this week) and it had sucked all the joy out of my life. The Hangover undid Carol's efforts to destroy my soul and for that, I'll always be grateful.

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