I'm giving The Hangover
four stars. I don't like giving four stars to R-rated comedies, because people inevitably tell me, "The four stars made it sound funnier than it turned out to be." I'd prefer to give it three and a half stars, but as you probably have heard, one of the folks in production lost our half-star symbol in a poker game with some other papers, so we're stuck with whole-star ratings for the foreseeable future.
Luckily, you are wise enough to actually read the review instead of just going by the star rating. I respect you for that, idealized reader. It allows me to tell you that while The Hangover
isn't perfect, it's consistently funny and sometimes hilarious, and even the jokes that misfire aren't that bothersome because the plot structure is interesting and the lead characters are so likable.
The story deals with four guys having a bachelor party in Las Vegas. They hype each other up about what a wild night they're going to have. They go to the rooftop of their hotel to toast the upcoming evening and then ... we cut to the next morning, where the men's lavish suite is a wreck, there are things in the place that shouldn't be there and one thing that should be is missing. The hung-over men can't remember a thing after the toast and, to put matters right, they must find out exactly what happened during their wild night.
That's all the plot you need to know and I suggest you avoid commercials from the film and other reviews, because they will spoil some of the surprises. Part of the fun of The Hangover
is watching the layers of the onion slowly get peeled away as the guys desperately search for clarity. Ads for the movie give away too much, and I'm sure that numerous reviewers will go even further.
The guys are groom-to-be Doug (Justin Bartha), his two best buddies - overconfident high school teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper) and mild-mannered dentist Stu (Ed Helms from The Office
), whose girlfriend (Rachel Harris) is a cartoonish control freak - plus his eager-to-please future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Heather Graham and Mike Epps also turn up, along with a celebrity or two whose names are best unrevealed.
I liked the guys. Judging by appearance, I expected Galifianakis to be a low-rent Jack Black, but his character - while as whacked as a typical Black persona - is more provocative. He badly wants to fit in, but it's hard being both the outsider and the most immature and naive member of the group. His behavior is outrageous, but his sweet nature keeps him from becoming a stereotype.
As the alpha male of the group, Cooper reminds me of Kevin Costner during his early years, around the time of Fandango
. Costner was great fun to watch in those days and Cooper is equally engaging here. Helms contributes a solid sad-sack performance (the missing tooth is real, by the way) and Bartha is affable. Can't say more than that about him. You'll understand why later.
Todd Phillips (Old School
, Road Trip
) directed the film and he isn't very good at making movies. This one works anyway: The structure, the script and the cast trump his limited talents. The Hangover
has all the vulgar elements of most R-rated comedies, but the presentation is different, more sophisticated and marginally more mature. Set your expectations to reasonable and prepare to have a great time. Now aren't you glad you read the whole piece instead of just glancing at the stars? Way to go, idealized reader!
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