Review: The Hangover

Have we not had enough of these godawful American frat-house comedies? American Pie started the franchise with a noble attempt to re-incarnate the soul of such films as Animal House and Ferris Bueller; and it wasn't half bad. There-after, however, the law of diminishing returns has muddied the waters and reduced the quality; and there wasn't that much there to begin with.

Nonetheless, now Hollywood gives us The Hangover. The plot is so hackneyed you'll feel put off immediately: four friends decide to hold one of their number's stag do in Las Vegas; they get very drunk, hijinks ensue and the groom gets lost. Can the remaining trio piece together their fractured memory and find their ally soon enough to get him to the church on time? Does anyone care? Well, yes actually.

The Hangover makes no pretensions about being original in scope, but its tone is unique. The film opens far more on the 'black' end than the 'comedy,' and the tone continues as one of morose existential melancholia, without losing the gross-out comedy, like a mass-marketed I Heart Huckabees. A scene where a used condom is thrown around isn't even played for laughs, but becomes a moment of boyish male bonding. Women, on the other hand, are refreshingly portrayed without malice, yet not sanctified either. The film gives a uniquely grown-up slant to the genre, without missing out on the excess.

Take our three heroes, for example: while the groom is the quintessential Nice Guy, the protagonists comprise an out-and-out weirdo, a gutless killjoy and a teacher who steals field-trip money from his students to gamble in Vegas. The latter is ably played by Bradley Cooper, who has been One To Watch since he stole the first couple seasons of Alias. Up-and-coming stand-up Zach Galifianakis, meanwhile, has that knack of making you feel so uncomfortable with his weirdness that you laugh nonetheless. The triumverate is rounded off by The Daily Show's chortle-wrangling sideshow Ed Helms, whose musical interlude at the midway point is the highlight.

These three sell the undesirableness of their characters so well that you're genuinely surprised as you start to like them, as they are surprised that they grow to like each other. By the end of the film, the edgy underdogs have become the heroes and you can't help but cheer. The very idea of having character development in a gross-out comedy is so novel that you don't even care whether the film is funny; which is good as it could be funnier. You won't be rolling in the aisles, but at least you won't feel guilty for cracking up at the best gags.

I'd like to suggest Hollywood make more of this kind of thing, but evidently they've already taken the wrong end of the stick and commissioned a sequel to this closed story. So take the time to appreciate this original gem before Hollywood ruins it the way it has American Pie and Shrek.

1 comment:

  1. Done wrong this film could of been named 'Dude, where's my friend?' but it's just brillient. One of the few comedies that is consistency hilarious all thw way through. My favroate film of the year so far. If I was to give a minor criticism, the film is no where near an ensumble piece and nearly all the good jokes are Alan's. But I was laughing so much I didn't really care.