The Hangover - Movie Review


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The Hangover

Was it wrong of me to take my girlfriend to go see The Hangover?
After witnessing Zach Galifianakis sneak in one last chance to expose himself on camera, some might say yes. In fact, probably most people would say yes. Out of stubbornness I regret nothing, but I must admit that The Hangover is very much a "guy movie." This is interesting, because for a "guy movie" this film has an overwhelming amount of male nudity in ratio to female nudity. Did I feel a little gross afterwards? Maybe. But I suppose that's a credit to the film's authenticity. You might get a little bit of a hang-over yourself after watching it.

The movie has a lot going for it, especially with its premise. Three guys wake up in a $4,200 Las Vegas suite with terrible hang-overs, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a wandering chicken, a missing tooth, and some very ill-advised interior decorating decisions. The fourth man in their party is missing, and to make matters worse, that man is the bachelor for whom they were throwing the party. The wedding is in two days. No one can remember a thing. From there it's up to the characters to make the premise shift its gears, and this is where The Hangover runs into the majority of its problems.

The dominant characters are simply unlikable. Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a schoolteacher whose gambling money is earned by embezzling the cash that's supposed to be used for the class field trip. He seems to hate children when he's off the clock. Stu (Ed Helms) the dentist is a tad more sympathetic, but only in comparison to his truly awful girlfriend. Meanwhile, the bridegroom is mostly absent. It's up to the brother of the bride Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis, to provide the single most redeemable attributes of the film. He's not just a child trapped in the body of an adult, he's a child who has been living as an adult for far too long. He needs friends, he wants to be liked, and it seems that this hangover is the most quality time he has spent with other human beings in a very long time. It's not just a funny performance, it's a great performance overall, and I'm willing to recommend this movie based upon that alone.

The first half-an-hour of this movie doesn't want you to enjoy it, and you might not want to enjoy these characters or even connect with them very much at all. Maybe I'm too uptight, but the concept, when you think about it too much (and by that I mean think about it at all), of a group of people having so great a time that they don't even remember it, then having to clean up the mess they made, and then returning to the lives they led before with the agreement to destroy all the evidence of their Las Vegas shenanigans, is actually kind of depressing. You can't really say "at least we have the memories." But I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority of male viewers with that opinion, and realizing that now I kind of want to see the film Sideways again.

I'm not giving much away when I say that things tend to work out for these guys. I just feel as though the film would have been far more successful if the audience really wanted it to work out well for these guys. I want to draw a comparison between this and Superbad, a film which shared similar themes of heavy drinking, drunken mayhem, and testing friendship. That film featured characters that said bad things and did bad things, but they weren't necessarily bad people and what they were searching for wasn't mayhem but some kind of acceptance in the form of friendships or relationships. In the Hangover, the character of Alan clearly wants this, which is probably why we like him. The rest of the movie didn't seem to care, and frankly neither did I.

I laughed really hard at times, very hard, and kept smiling for the rest, but the Hangover just didn't win me over.

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