Movie Review: The Hangover
By Matthew Huntley
June 12, 2009
The Hangover is a guy movie in every sense of the phrase. It's not for every guy, necessarily, but the majority of male viewers will likely see a part of themselves on screen. That's probably because the movie was written and directed by guys and takes the point of view of 30-something males who never quite got over their adolescence or sense of adventure. In a way, that's every guy and the movie is sort of a guy's dream, fantasy and nightmare all in one.
Don't let the ads fool you. The movie isn't all about raunchiness, depravity and nudity, although it certainly contains those elements. It's actually somewhat truthful and becomes surprisingly warm-hearted. Even the most outrageous scenes contain pinches of insight about male human nature, and that becomes a bonus in an otherwise traditional comedy.
The premise has been done before: a group of guys head to Vegas, get completely wasted, and wind up in a heap of trouble because they can't remember what they did the night before. If you guess one of the guys gets married to a stripper, you're right (a similar thing happened to Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders on The Simpsons).
Vegas is where Doug (Justin Bartha) is having his bachelor party. He's getting married in two days, but there's a chance he might not make it back to L.A. in time for the wedding (you'll find out why). He's joined by Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and the slow-witted Alan (Zach Galifianikis). After they make a toast atop the Bellagio hotel, pledging to have one of the greatest nights of their lives, the movie cuts to the next morning, when all the guys are passed out and on the verge of death. One of them is missing a tooth; another, his pants. They lie in their own filth on the floor of their palatial suite, amid empty beer and liquor bottles, a smoldering chair, a crying baby and a ferocious tiger, among other things. When they come to, they have two burning questions: what the hell happened last night and where the hell is Doug?
It's those last two questions that keep The Hangover moving. The mysteries of the plot keep us curious about what will happen next, not to mention what happened before. Without them, the movie would have just been a series of gags not bound by any central narrative, although the gags are funny enough that it still could have worked. My favorite involved Phil, Stu and Alan making a deal with a couple cops after stealing a police car. Without giving too much away, the cops come up with a clever plea bargain that involves tasers.
There are several other misadventures the heroes run into and luckily the screenplay by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore gives us plenty of reasons to identify and care about the characters so the events actually mean something. The four guys do some stupid things at times, yes, but the stunts aren't so over-the-top we don't believe we wouldn't do them ourselves. And although I mostly knew how the movie would turn out, it wasn't blatantly obvious, which added to the excitement.
Even before The Hangover opened, a sequel was already in the works. This is one I'm actually looking forward to because the premise can easily be expanded upon, and not just because it's all too common for people who get utterly wasted to go out and do it again, no matter how much they vow not to. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but each drunken adventure could potentially make for an entertaining comedy. Let's just hope the filmmakers do something clever with the next installment because, believe it or not, the original gives them something to live up to.