Summer Movie Showdown: "The Hangover" Review


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Summer Movie Showdown: "The Hangover" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release date: June 5, 2009
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Genre: Comedy
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha

In 2009, Director Todd Phillips struck comedy gold with the release of the buddy adventure "The Hangover." Since then, the film has launched its own franchise, serving as the first of three films that follow the adventures of the fabled Wolf Pack, four men who often find themselves in the center of a hilarious series of misadventures.

"The Hangover" stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis as Phil, Stu, and Alan, three friends of Justin Bartha's character, Doug, who travel to Las Vegas with him to celebrate his upcoming marriage with one big Vegas-style bachelor party. Unfortunately, Doug is missing on the morning after the party, and the three have only a few dim memories of the night before to lead them on their search to both find Doug and get him back home in time for the wedding. The search for Doug and what's revealed about the previous night is what makes this one of the highest-grossing films of the year.

The plot of the film has more than just a hint of genius behind it. Phil, Stu, and Alan spend the majority of the film stumbling around Vegas and its immediate surroundings piecing together the night, beginning with the moment they awaken in their tossed hotel room to find Stu missing a tooth, a tiger in the room's bathroom, and a baby hidden in the closet. After this inauspicious beginning, things only get more chaotic, as they discover that their car has been replaced by a police cruiser and that sometime during the night, Stu has married a stripper named Jade, played by Heather Graham. As the movie progresses, the trio are chased by mobsters, confronted by Mike Tyson, and discover that the memory loss is self-inflicted by drugs provided by Alan.

While the plot may at first seem chaotic, the series of events follow a natural progression of clues revealed as the three work through their lost night step by step. With each clue's revelation, just a bit more of the night's events is revealed, and the three find themselves one step closer to finding the missing Doug. What really serves to hold the fractured plot presentation together is the acting on the part of Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis.

Cooper's Phil and Helms' Stu are both old friends of the groom, while Galifianakis' Alan is Doug's future brother-in-law. Cooper and Helms both find themselves playing straight men against Galifianakis, allowing Galifianakis' Alan to shine as the weird addition to the party who manages to turn a night in Vegas into an adventure that the four of them will never forget. Though Helms and Cooper manage to put in solid performances, Galifianakis easily manages to steal scene after scene.

The supporting cast in "The Hangover" is superb as well. Heather Graham's onscreen time is limited, but her comic timing is spot on throughout. Her performance as Stu's unintended wife is is well-delivered, with her character appearing charmingly naive yet worldly. She also adds a nice feminine touch to the film, keeping the movie from becoming too much of a men's-only attraction. Ken Jeong also adds his comedic touch to the film as Chinese gangster Leslie Chow. His screen time is even more limited than Graham's, but his over-the-top approach to the character leaves a lasting impression on the audience. Mike Epps makes an appearance in the film as well, portraying Black Doug, a drug dealer taken by Jeong and traded for cash to the trio, who mistakenly think that they're buying free their errant groom. In the role, Epps displays a comedic range that fits right in with the rest of the cast, playing a small part in the chaos that runs throughout the movie.

"The Hangover" is part of the new breed of adult comedies released in recent years. Its R rating makes it unsuitable for younger audiences, but older filmgoers will appreciate the mature themes presented in the movie while enjoying its lighthearted approach. Helms, Cooper, and Galifianakis put in splendid performances and are supported by a wonderful cast that helps to broaden the scope of the film tremendously. Even the city of Las Vegas plays its part, with the director making full use of the scenery and legend of the city in which to position the adventure. From the hotels to the desert, the city and its surrounding serve a unique purpose as the only city where the events of the lost night could possibly take place. "The Hangover" is an overall winner with few flaws to distract from an enjoyable viewing experience.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5