I like the idea of The Hangover a bit more than I liked the actual movie.
I love that a low-budget anarchic comedy starring three schlubby second-tier actors outperformed the new Terminator film on its opening weekend. I love that great word of mouth and the buzz of something unexpected and hilarious can overcome blockbuster inertia and surprise everyone.
It’s the same formula that made Wedding Crashers a $210 million sensation a few years back, nestled on the box office top ten between the more predictable King Kong and Batman Begins.
I also love the premise of The Hangover: three guys wake up after a Vegas bachelor party with a missing groom, no memory of the night before and a series of bizarre clues to guide them — a missing tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a hospital bracelet.
It’s a terrific premise that makes for a pretty good, but not great, movie. It has its share of laugh-out-loud moments (many provided by stand-up comedian turned actor Zach Galifianakis) but just as many moments that fall a bit flat. The piecing together of their forgotten night is never quite as clever or surprising as it could be, but it’s really close.
The lead actors are uniformly strong. Bradley Cooper, whom I remember fondly from his best-friend role on Alias, plays the suavest member of this motley crew but behind his cool exterior he’s always on the verge of falling apart. Galifianakis has the showiest role as an idiot savant much heavier on the idiot than the savant (though the Rain Man homage that’s par for the course in any Vegas movie is one of the film’s funniest moments). And Ed Helms, priceless on The Office, is sweetly hilarious here as the closest thing to a three-dimensional character in the film.
The film also features fine supporting turns by Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Matt Walsh (I have no idea who he is, but he has a great bit as a doctor) and Mike Tyson. Yes, Mike Tyson. Women don’t fare as well in the film — the men leave behind a shrill ball-buster and a weeping bride-to-be and the largest female role in the film is an escort/stripper played by Heather Graham. Some critics claimed Knocked Up gave short shrift to its female roles, but the nicely-developed characters played by Leslie Mann and Katherine Heigl make that film look like The Hours in comparison to this one.
I could also have done without the frequent anti-gay slurs. I’m sure plenty of men out there still hurl around the word “faggot” and dismiss things as “gay” but is that really a slice of life we need to see portrayed in a film countless teenage boys will be memorizing this summer?
Enough party pooping, though. This film is a party, and a damn fun one. You may not be proud of everything that happened there, and you might not remember half of it, but ultimately you’re glad you went.