Remember that time you went to Vegas, got really wasted, stole a cop car, went to the hospital, lost a tooth, pissed off a gay Asian gangster, kidnapped Mike Tyson’s tiger, married a stripper, and woke up with a baby in your closet? Neither do these guys, but as Zach Galifianakis’s character would say, it’s “classic Vegas.”
This is the outrageous premise for The Hangover, the hilarious comedy that took #1 at the box office last week-end, beating most expectations for the film that was up against Land of the Lost and Disney Pixar’s Up. But with its strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth, it rallied strong to pull in 45 million. I saw it on Saturday night, and it’s certainly worth your money.
There is a plot to this movie, but is it all that important? Not really. It’s merely a medium to get these characters from situation to situation, it what almost becomes a sketch comedy starring the same characters. And it’s the characters themselves that are hysterical, regardless of their current predicament. It’s the rapid-fire banter that’s bound to permeate culture as quotable one-liners that make this film great.
The plot is simple. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married, but not before having one last night of freedom and debauchery in Las Vegas with his best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms). He invites his bride-to-be’s idiot brother Alan (Galifianakis), and it’s never quite clear if he actually has a mental condition, or if he’s just a blithering idiot. Either way he’s a riot. And a convicted pedophile, as he reveals early in the movie while waiting outside a school with Doug, “We shouldn’t be here. I’m not allowed within 200 feet of schools… Or Chuck E. Cheese’s.” Should I laugh at the prospect of this man who is clearly a convicted sex offender, likely an offense directed towards minors, being near a school? Probably not, but I did anyway. He reminds us of this ‘malady’ later on when he expresses his excitement to see the Jonas Brothers.
Anyway, these four go on a road trip to Vegas, where they splurge on a 4,000 dollar per night villa at Caesar’s palace, and toast each other on the roof of the hotel, as Alan voluntarily slices his hand open that they might become blood brothers. The next morning they wake up and Doug is missing, their room looks like Linsday Lohan decided she was thirsty, there’s a tiger in their bathroom, and a baby in their closet. Should I laugh when sex offender and certifiable dumb-ass Alan is the one to strap the baby to his chest? No. But I did anyway.
The rest of the movie involves them putting the night back together piece by piece, a sort of Memento for the drunk and stupid, in what turns out to be a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, especially when Holmes is on cocaine. They conveniently find little clues and race back to the destinations, which include a hospital, a wedding church, and Mike Tyson’s menagerie. It’s a typical three act comedy that is just taught enough that you just barely care what happens to the characters. In other words, it’s a serious enough situation that you hope they find Doug. Because really, such a situation would be terrifying, which the characters (mainly Ed) voice a few times. So the plot works enough that it matters but not enough to detract from the comedy, which is a good thing. After all, we’re not going for a Citizen Kane narrative here.
What’s more important than the plot are the characters, and they are each great in their own respects. Stu is dating a cold, manipulative psycho bitch, but he’s a sweet, generally calm, very worrying person. Phil is a ‘cool’ teacher at a private school, and just as I worried when I saw Bradley Cooper in the preview, he’s a complete douche. He steals from his students, bemoans his horrible life with his wife and son, and worries only about having a ‘good time.’ Though to his credit, he is often the one to calm the group down when things go awry. And if I haven’t made it clear, Alan is by far the scene-stealer in this movie. He’s a dim-witted, well-meaning, clean-mouthed (“You’re language is offensive!”) person who tries a little too hard to fit in (the entire movie he mimics the ‘cooler’ Phil’s every move, except when he swears, when Alan will insert friendlier expletives). Yeah he’s some sort of sex-criminal, but I’m sure it was accident.
So these three go looking for Doug (who is little more than a human prop) and encounter the sweet-hearted hooker that Stu married (Heather Graham), an irate Mike Tyson, and a pissed off naked homosexual Asian gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who happens to find everything the overweight Alan does hilarious, simply because he’s fat. I laughed hard and often while watching this movie, for many different reasons. It’s occasionally gross out, sometimes physical, usually situational, but the three leads and the strong supporting cast always make it funny.
There are some some misses as well though. There’s a strange piano/vocal performance put on by Stu as they drug the tiger, which runs too long and isn’t that funny, according to my full theater that was mostly silent. And Mr. Chow is a little ridiculous and fell a little flat for me, with the exception of him laughing at Alan’s ‘fatness.’ But almost every other joke made me laugh, some to the point of tears, and like a real hangover, I had a hard time remembering all the comical things I saw and heard once I’d left the theater.
Oh, and the movie is wildly offensive. Mr. Chow is a walking stereotype for both Asians and homosexuals, the only black character is a drug dealer, Alan is a pedophile who totes around a baby (and slams a car door into the poor kid’s head… I just laughed again while writing that), and the only women in this movie are: 1. A cold hearted controlling bitch. 2. A kind but somewhat dumb prostitute. 3. The bride, who forgives her husband for coming to the wedding late and in shambles, and asks no questions now that he’s here. But if you’re really going to hold those things against the movie I recommend lightening up a little. It’s all in good fun, and it’s never really serious. People who get offended by these movies tend to think it’s making a statement for every single member of a race/gender/sexual orientation, when really it’s just damn funny. The world will be at peace when we can laugh at each other’s differences without getting pissed off about it. It’s not when we see the differences and hold each other down, or when we think any jab at a distinction is a form of restraint. Just my opinion on the matter.
And if you’re expecting character development, don’t. At the end of the movie, nobody has really changed. Stu wises up a little and stands up for himself, that’s about it. Alan’s still weird and dumb and Phil is just as much a tool as he was in the beginning. They learn no lessons, as director director Todd Phillips intended. It’s very similar to his other wildly popular movie Old School where bad behavior goes unpunished and just makes for ass-kicking awesome stories. I never got caught up in the huge love of Old School. I actually started a list a while ago for an article, “Most Overrated Movies,” and Old School was the fourth movie I thought of. I think The Hangover is superior in every sense of the word, with the exception that it doesn’t have “Dust in the Wind” sung at a funeral, which is, let’s face it, comedy genius.
And if you didn’t stay for the credits, it’s worth the price of admission just to go back and watch them. It is by far the funniest credits sequence I’ve ever seen, even better than the Jackie Chan bloopers that all result in him crushing his scrotum. They find a camera they had used that night and decide to watch the slide-show ‘just this once,’ and the credits roll as the pictures flash. It’s full of cameos like Wayne Newton, and hilarious pictures that end in one of the most shocking and daring things I’ve seen in a mainstream comedy (for those that know what I’m talking about, it turns out that it was a prosthesis. It’s still funny though).
I can’t sing Zach Galifianakis’s praises enough. Alan has some of the funniest quotes of any comedy in recent memory, and I hope his career will move strongly from here. He’s been in a few other films, including the other Vegas comedy What Happened in Vegas, but he’s never been in form like this.
Quote of the movie:
Stu: She has my ring, the one my grandmother kept in the holocaust.
Alan: I didn’t know they gave out rings in the holocaust.