The Hangover *** ½
Directed By: Todd Phillips.
Written By: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore.
Starring: Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Stu Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Heather Graham (Jade), Sasha Barrese (Tracy Garner), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Ken Jeong (Mr. Chow), Rachael Harris (Melissa), Mike Tyson (Himself), Mike Epps (Black Doug), Jernard Burks (Leonard), Rob Riggle (Officer Franklin), Cleo King (Officer Garden).
Sometimes you see the right movie at the right time. The Hangover is one of those movies for me. On Saturday, I was at a BBQ to celebrate my upcoming wedding, and made a drunken ass of myself. I have never been that drunk before, and I doubt I ever will be again. It is the only time I have ever gotten so drunk that I forgot what happened. So, feeling like a major league tool on Sunday, I dragged myself to the movie theater to see The Hangover – and absolutely loved it. Great art this isn’t. But for anyone who has ever been so drunk that they forgot what they did, The Hangover pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married on Sunday, so he and his three buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) hit the road to have a wild night in Las Vegas on Friday, and plan to come home on Saturday. We don’t really see what happened on Friday night, but we do see the after effects – on Saturday Phil, Stu and Alan wake up to discover that Doug is missing – his cell phone is still in the room, but he and his mattress are gone. Based on the evidence they find in their pockets, they hit the streets of Vegas again to try and piece together what happened the night before and where their friend is. They don’t really like what they find.
The three friends are a study in opposites. Phil is good looking and charming, works as a teacher and hates it, and complains all the time about being stuck with a wife and a kid. He just wants to go to Vegas and let loose. Stu is an uptight dentist, living with Melissa (Rachael Harris), a woman who bosses him around, physically abuses him and cheated on him the year before when they were on a cruise. He has to lie and say they are going to wine country, or else Melissa would not let him go at all. Alan is a socially awkward, overweight guy with a beard, who never really knows the right thing to say or do, and typically simply makes every situation worse.
The director of the movie is Todd Phillips, who has made movies like this before – most notably Old School – which had a similar cast of men, just trying to let loose, and going too far. This movie is infinitely better than that one. For one thing, none of the actors overacts in this movie. This is a film full of one liners, and yet Cooper, Helms and Galifiankis never underline the punchlines, they simply deliver them with great comic timing. As they go from one place to another, constantly meeting people who either love them or hate them because of their actions the previous night, they movie somehow maintains at least a certain degree of believability – there is nothing here that is all that is too far out there to be at least somewhat plausible (okay, the scene in the police station would never actually happen, but it gets a pass because it is so damn funny). By the time Mike Tyson (brilliant in a small role) shows up as himself, and wants to know where his tiger is, we have fully bought into the movie.
And underlying it all, is a rather serious message about alcohol abuse. None of these guys would really be considered an alcoholic, but they certainly stepped way too far over the line the night before. When Stu asks Phil if he’s worried that they don’t remember, he responds “No, because it means we must have had a really good time”. Whether true or not, it does raise the question as to whether or not it matters if you had a good time, when you can’t remember it the next day, and that there are consequences for that good time. I remember having a good time on Saturday, and yet I wish I hadn’t had nearly that good a time. This weekend, I learned the same lesson as the guys in this movie. The question is will I, or they, remember they learned the lesson the next time they start drinking? I hope so.