Sunday, June 28, 2009

Film Review: The Hangover

My wife and I went for a late showing of this film and we knew we were in for a treat. As the previous show ended and people walked out of the theater, they were all laughing. An older woman said "that was a little too over the top at times". Another older guy said "I don't know that I could recommend this film to many people". That was not a slam on the film, but rather an acknowledgment that recommending this film to friends might tarnish his intellectual reputation. Again, we were expecting fun.

This film seemed to have just the right balance of characters for a comedy. You had the protagonist played by Justin Bartha who is probably best known for a bit part in the National Treasure movies. There was Ed Helms, a former Daily Show correspondent. There was Bradley Cooper who will probably never live down his awesome role as the bully douche-bag boyfriend of Rachel McAdams in Wedding Crashers. And then there was the accidental star of this film, Zach Galifianakis.

Without dropping any spoilers, here is roughly what goes down. The protagonist, "Doug" is getting married and he decides to take his two friends and his fiances brother (Zach G.) on a bachelor party trip to Vegas. The story moves pretty quickly to get us to the party which oddly never takes place for the viewer. They start drinking on the roof of a hotel, and through the magic of film we are fast forwarded to the following morning. This is unheard of in a raunchy bachelor comedy because surely the best jokes would occur while everyone is hammered and things are getting out of control, right? Wrong! Funnier, would be to have these characters trying to figure out just what the hell happened the night before. At this point, Bradly Coopers character "Phil" now becomes the protagonist who leads the three man pack on a journey to retrace their steps and try to find their missing friend (who, by the way, is due at his wedding tomorrow morning).

While better jokes may have been written for that 'heat of the disaster moment' they weren't needed to support this film. The cast did an excellent job of reacting to the events that are unfolding, and to each other. Zach G. who is the undisputed king of awkward physical comedy does well to keep everyone else on the set reacting. I have seen several comedies in my time where I had to think that the funniest stuff on the film happened off camera, or when the actors just did what they wanted with the material and the director cut it out. With this comedy, I had to believe some of the dialogue was improvised with the cameras on (Zach G. makes several comments about children which leave everyone else cringing). Kudos to the director for letting comedy unfold while the cameras kept rolling. You may know another of his films which had that same flavor, it was called "Old School". If you look quick, you will catch him playing a bit part in this film as the weird guy in the elevator going down on his girlfriend.

The best way to enjoy this film is to walk in knowing nothing about the story other than what I have told you and what you see in the trailer. And congratulations to the director for figuring out how to put the funniest part of the film into the credits. A sure way to get people to leave the theater laughing.

I give this one an A, and you probably will too.

1 comment:

  1. On a side note - for a movie so good, the soundtrack is pretty terrible. There are four or five good 90's dance tracks in this movie that somehow didn't get onto the album. Also - the title track that played at the end of the film and in the previews is noticeably absent. Nothing like making a hit film and then "phoning in" the damned soundtrack. ;-)