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The Hangover is Pretty Damn Funny

The Hangover
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Warner Bros., 2009

In the Judd Apatow age, it’s refreshing to see a comedy that’s R-rated and doesn’t feel like Apatow was on set.  I love the Apatow movies and most of the emulators, but knowing that there’s a guy like Todd Phillips out there who goes for the R and doesn’t even try to infuse the movie with Apatow sweetness is a good thing.  Phillips is another filmmaker this decade that brought R-rated comedy back with 2000’s Road Trip and especially 2003’s Old School.  Since then he’s been a bit MIA with movies like Starsky & Hutch and School for Scoundrels.

In this Dude, Where’s My Car? and Go mashup (you could probably name a few others), a group of guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party.  The groom is Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) and his friends are Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper, who staked some claim in this R-rated comedy territory with Wedding Crashers), the bordering-on-mentally-challenged Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), and the emasculated Stu Price (Ed Helms), who is treated like a bad child by his girlfriend Melissa (Rachael Harris).  They go to the roof of their hotel to knock down some Jager and hopefully have a night on the town.  Just one thing: they wake up in their trashed suite not remembering anything, a chicken wandering around, Stu with a missing tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in a closet, and Doug missing.

So, it’s time for our hungover heroes to investigate what happened to them and where Doug went.  Since Phil has a medical bracelet on his wrist, they start at the hospital, gleaning enough information to find out that they were at a wedding chapel prior to that, where Stu drunkenly got married to stripper/escort Jade (Heather Graham).  On and on it goes, and they run into some trouble with an Asian gang led by Mr. Chow (Apatow favorite Ken Jeong), who claims they stole $80,000 from him.

The movie is funny for first, putting people who essentially have amnesia in a whacked-out reality, then second, explaining all the loose ends for that reality.  The circumstances around how a tiger gets in their suite is probably my favorite.  I’m still thinking of this particular off-the-cuff line that Cooper spouts out when a surveillance video shows him easing the tiger into a police car and it makes me giggle uncontrollably every time I think of it.  Filmmakers like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer could also view this film for some pointers on how to reference movies.  There’s a great Rain Man riff in this and a subtle reference to Three Men and a Baby in some throwaway, nearly subliminal dialogue.

Also, once again, and this has become a tremendously welcome theme in comedies especially this year: almost every character and every actor has something to do.  No one is unwelcome onscreen (although Harris gets the most thankless role as the unfeeling bitch, and Jeong’s character loses most of his laughs after his tremendous introduction into the movie).  When you look at the core group of actors here, Cooper, Galifianakis, and Helms carry the movie extremely well.  I thought Dude, Where’s My Car? was a guilty pleasure for it’s over-the-top zaniness, but I think The Hangover will appeal to most people.  At the very least, even if you’re not laughing, you will probably have fun anyway.

Next: The Hangover, Part II

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