“Oh my God…” That was what the woman sitting behind me in the theater kept muttering as we watched The Hangover together. I have to admit, I had a similar reaction to this clever and raunchy comedy, albeit a silent one. I can understand why Zach Galifianakis’s ass might elicit such a response, verbal or internal. In a world of reimaginings and adaptations, it was refreshing to experience an original piece of material taking full advantage of its potential. The concept is so simple it’s a wonder no one’s thought of it before, but hallelujah for the people out there like Todd Phillips who get creative when delivering big laughs.
Essentially, The Hangover follows three amnesiac groomsman the day after a debaucherous bachelor party as they track down the origins of a series of clues that they hope lead them to the lost groom, Doug (Justin Bartha). Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a schoolteacher who resents the family life that has stripped him of the wild antics he enjoyed as a youth. He needs this party bad, and forces the gang to go to excess, an act that only bites them in the ass later. Stu (Ed Helms), Phil’s cautious foil, is extremely pussy-whipped by a girlfriend that no self-respecting man would put up with for no longer than one roll in the hay. He’s the conscience in the film that only seems to get trampled on and distorted. Doug’s future brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), is the odd duck. Phil and Stu aren’t really his friends, but he’s so desperate for male camaraderie that he’d follow these guys anywhere, as long as he gets to carry his male-purse that he refers to as a satchel – like the on Indiana Jones carries.
Once the guys check in to their extravagant suite at Caesar’s Palace, they go up to the roof to do a few Jagermeister shots to kick the night off. The evening then rushes by in a time-lapse shot of the Vegas lights twinkling rapidly until the sun rises the next morning. We arrive back in the suite to find it trashed beyond repair and the groom nowhere to be found. What follows is a detective story led by three strung-out and frazzled gumshoes who just want to figure out what the hell happened last night. A tiger in the bathroom, an infant baby in the closet, and a hospital bracelet around Phil’s wrist starts them off, but nothing leads them to where you’d expect.
Overall, I found The Hangover to be really, really enjoyable and a welcome surprise for the summer season. It’s hard these days to find a comedy that isn’t geared towards people who have to visit the theater with their parents in tow, and the film delivers some edgy laughs that don’t come from a museum that comes to life at nighttime. The narrative gets a little bumpy in places, and the logistics don’t always quite make sense (don’t police impounds search cars?), but the chemistry among the cast shoves those thoughts to the back of the mind. Zack Galifianakis steals every scene he’s in, which is pretty much every scene, and I hope this movie skyrockets him to stardom.
Then we can mutter, “Oh my God…” in a movie theater for years to come.
Screen Junkies Grade: A-