The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Hangover

When it comes to popular movies, TV shows, or books, I'm never one to jump on the bandwagon.  I haven't read the Harry Potter books beyond the first one, the Twilight series looks like garbage, I started watching Lost midway through the third season, and Avatar doesn't appeal to me in the least.  Some of it is intentional -- I don't like people telling me I HAVE TO see or read something -- and some of it is just not getting around to it, like 2009's The Hangover, a huge success in theaters last summer.  I wanted to see it, just never got around to it.

What Wedding Crashers started a few years back with the R-rated comedy, The Hangover continues with a raunchier brand of laughs than what PG-13 comedies get away with.  These harder comedies were everywhere in the 1980s, and then they sort of just disappeared.   Thankfully, they've popped back up on the radar, and with good examples like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover hopefully they're here to stay.  Of course, there's the bad -- cough Hot Tub Time Machine  cough -- but they can't all be perfect, can they?

It seems somewhat pointless to write a plot summary of The Hangover but here goes.  Two days before he's supposed to get married, Doug (Justin Bartha) heads to Las Vegas for his bachelor party with his best friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) and his soon-to-be brother in law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).  Before they head out, they toast the groom to be and fade out.  Fast forward to the next morning, and they wake up in their destroyed hotel suite with massive hangovers no memory of what happened the night before.  Making it worse, Doug is nowhere to be found.  So what did happen during the bachelor party?  They've got little time to find out.

After this quick intro, the rest of the movie is the trio's effort to A. find out where Doug is and B. what the hell happened to them?  It is a search that includes a full-grown tiger in their bathroom, Stu's marriage to a stripper/escort, Jade (Heather Graham), boxer Mike Tyson tracking them down because they stole his tiger, an angry Chinese gambler (Ken Jeong) they supposedly  kidnapped, a trip to the police station and a tasing exhibition, a drug dealer (Mike Epps) with something in common with the fellas, a stolen police car, and a baby Alan names 'Carlos' that was left in a closet in their hotel room.  If that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is.

A key to any successful comedy -- or huge, megahit in this case -- is the one-liners, or making it simpler, how quotable is the movie?  Here is IMDB's Memorable Quotes, which even out of context provide some good laughs. The ridiculously over the top situations provide some great physical humor, especially the scene in the police station, but that's just the start.  Like with his other huge success, Old School, director Todd Phillips has a movie full of quotable one-liners.   Cooper is more of the straight man to all the antics (although he does have his fair share of good lines), Helms gets to go crazy because he's missing a tooth and also gave his grandma's ring she wore through the Holocaust to his new stripper bride, and Galifianakis, well, he gets his own paragraph.

Some comedies have huge breakout characters capable of carrying a movie on their own.  For The Hangover, it's clearly Galifianakis.  Cooper and Helms are great in their own right, and the supporting cast is nearly perfect, but this is his movie.  In describing the character, think of him as someone who's not all there mentally but is still really smart, awkward beyond belief with some of his statements, and in the big of the funniest characters I've ever seen in a movie.  Well over half of those memorable quotes come from him, and it would take a much longer review to talk up how funny Alan really is.  Anyways, here's just a few, his friendship/wolfpack speech, Alan's criticism of Rain Man, and of course, the taser scene.

With a so perfectly sublime character as Alan leading the way, Phillips doesn't stop there.  Before the movie even came out, the trailer scene that people talked about was Mike Tyson going Rock Band on some classic Phil Collins.  Here's Tyson's introduction, still one of the movie's best and funniest moments.  The boxer is in the movie for about 10-15 minutes tops and makes the most of it with his fair share of lines that produced a laugh or two or seven.  He's able to poke some fun at himself and even throws a punch or two ("He's still got it") with the scene at his mansion providing some much-needed explanation for the tiger in the bathroom. 

It might seem a waste to describe the story-telling device in a comedy, but for the Hangover, the decision to not show the actual bachelor party at all made this movie. Seeing it no doubt would have been funny, but hearing about it instead and how legendary it was works so much better.  Meeting all these people they've interacted with who react like they're meeting their heroes does more to show how crazy the night was than ever seeing it.  Of course, we do get some revelation late when Alan stumbles across Stu's camera with hundreds of pictures detailing their escapades.  Using the photos over the credits is a perfect ending.

I can't remember the last time I laughed this much at a movie in a long time.  The cast is great, the story and setting is ideal, and the one-liners are flying left and right.  The Hangover 2 is supposedly in the works, and I'll be curious to see where they actually go with a sequel.  For now though, I'll just enjoy the first one.  It was more than worth the 2-month wait on Netflix.  I also included the link to Stu's song about the epic clusterf*ck they find themselves in.

The Hangover <----trailer (2009): ****/****
Stu's Song

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