Friday, June 5, 2009

A Night They'll Never Remember

The Hangover:
3 ½ out of 4

"The Hangover" is flat-out hilarious, the funniest movie so far this year with laughs that roll on even into the credits. And it all begins with boasting a clever premise that allows for endlessly hysterical possibilities. Four friends take a weekend trip to Vegas to have themselves a raucous bachelor party before sending their buddy off to get married. It's a one crazy night in Vegas that goes terribly, terribly wrong. The next morning only three friends are there to wake up because they're missing the groom, Doug (Justin Bartha), and they don't remember a thing having no clue as to where he could be. Directed by Todd Phillips ("Old School"), the movie is ingenious in that it skips over the party, and all we're left to witness is the aftermath. The messy, hazy, uproarious aftermath.

Joining Doug on the roadtrip before he disappeared was his two best friends, Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper), and his wife's eccentric brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). They rent a $4,200 villa and journey up to the roof of the hotel to toast to shots of Jagermeister. And that's the last thing we see. They wake up to the place torn to shreds, a chicken wandering around, a crying baby in a cabinet, a missing tooth, and a Bengal tiger prowling in the bathroom. And Doug missing, of course, which leads to a sort of backward detective plot where these three friends desperately try to figure out what in the world they did last night. And throughout their discoveries, they all can't help but chuckle along the way of how fucked up they must've been. Their search leads them to an emergency room, a cheap wedding chapel, and a police station among other places. The police station because when they give their parking check to the doorman, he pulls around not the vintage car they drove to Vegas, but rather, a police cruiser. Now how the hell did that happen?

It's all a big mystery that plays out not only for the characters but for the audience, as well. We're right there with them wanting to know just what exactly happened, and all the answers are provided in a surprising, fun, and perfectly structured fashion. Except for the chicken. The chicken is never explained. The situations the four comrades get themselves into are giddily surreal and absurd to a point that pushes slapstick plausibility to its brink. The events of this long, long day go against good sense and good taste, and yet you'll find yourself rooting for these guys all the way. The movie also certainly earns its R-rating, but it's never gratuitous because when this goes down in Vegas, well, it's going to be R-rated.

We come across a variety of goofy and unique characters along the way, including an absolutely rambunctious Chinese mob leader named Mr. Chow, played magnificently by Ken Jeong who was last seen in "Role Models." The three friends find him locked in the trunk of their car, and the completely naked man armed with a crowbar jumps out at them as if he was spring-loaded. There's also Jade (Heather Graham), a stripper and hooker who has a good heart and is simply looking for the right guy. Oh, and that Bengal tiger in the bathroom? Well, it leads to a bizarre cameo by Mike Tyson who is simply a weird character all in himself.

"The Hangover" even, ever so slightly, delves into a bit of a character study in the way each buddy holds a distinct personality that slowly gets peeled away. Phil is a schoolteacher who steals field trip money from his students, Stu refers to himself as a doctor even though he's only a dentist and is in a relationship with a feminist Nazi (Rachael Harris), and Alan, well, we'll get to him later. These three men aren't the cool, young crowd going out to Vegas; they are middle-aged and simply trying to replicate wild Vegas movies as fake as those movies are. This movie pokes fun at replicating that one crazy night of a time by turning it into an utter disaster. It's keen in its observations in the ways of an Apatow feature with witty dialogue coming from witty characters.

The revelation here is Zach Galifianakis. As Alan, this short, stocky, fully-bearded weirdo carries around a man purse, calls it a satchel, and occasionally holds a stance that refuses to let anybody take him seriously. He steals each and every scene with one-liners that are so sharp coming from a guy who's meant to be so dumb. He even has a monologue toasting to his three friends that'll leave you dumbfounded. He's funny without even trying and sincere even in his own ignorance. In one scene faced against the dangerous Mr. Chow, Alan's satchel gets taken away and stepped on causing Alan to outburst with, "Hey! There's Skittles in there!" Anyway, take my word for it: He's comedic gold.

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