The gauntlet has been laid down and the bar is raised.
While not the height of cinema, crude slapstick buddy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year Old Virgin have in recent years shown that when done correctly, there can be more to these films than an endless string of fart jokes and sex references. This summer we get treated to a new entry in the growing sub-genre, The Hangover. The movie for everyone who's ever been to and "forgotten" about what they did in Las Vegas, The Hangover brings rip roaring laughs and just enough of everything else to vault itself into greatness pushing the envelope and going for the gusto at every turn.
Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers), Ed Helms (The Daily Show), Justin Bartha (National Treasure), and Zach Galifianakis (Heartbreakers) play four friends who travel to
Everything I've revealed so far was in the trailer to the film in some form or another, so it really doesn't constitute a spoiler. However it’s a shame that the trailer was as revealing as it was because many of these things would have been much funnier, like the cop car pulling up, had I seen them for the first time in the theatre and not merely been waiting for that scene to appear.
Regardless, the film takes us on a wild and fairly hilarious ride as the three friends find out bit by bit that they've had one of the wildest nights in Vegas history, complete with all four of them having been ruffied, and thusly not able to remember anything. All three cast members are very funny (I say three because Bartha's character is missing for three quarters of the film and he has minimal screen time) but it is truly Galifianakis' show. A stand up comedian who has had limited roles in film, this is his coming out party. Galifianakis is not afraid at all to "go all out" for a scene and his physical comedy and timing are spot on. Rather than try and be semi-awkward by hesitating between lines, something that people like Jack Black and Will Ferrell think is funny, Galifianakis dives in headfirst to every joke. He steals every single scene he is in and sets the tone for the entire film right from the get go standing in a room with only a dress shirt on and a jockstrap right through, including an absolutely hilarious Rainman gag.
Galifianakis will definitely get more work from his performance in this film, but here's to hoping that it's still in a supporting or ensemble role. It's not a knock on him, but like John C. Reilly, I think he'd do his best work when he doesn't have the weight of the entire film on him. Again, guys like Will Ferrell and Jack Black could learn a thing or two from Galifianakis.
Aside from the main cast, the film benefits from some great cameos; including Jeffrey Tambor, Heather Graham, and Mike Tyson who really had some great lines and was incredibly funny despite his brief time on screen.
While the movie gets hampered a bit by some of the choices in plot progression, particularly that involving a high roller who accuses the guys of stealing from him, the film never really derails itself. Most appreciatively, once the main problem of finding Doug has been solved the movie wraps itself up in about 10 minutes. Many times comedies like this linger around for far too long without any idea of how to come to a resolution or painstakingly trying to create some sort of emotional message, not here. The Hangover knows exactly what type of film it is and what it's trying to accomplish. It's refreshing to see that the filmmakers didn't try and do too much.
The Hangover is the perfect movie for pure laughs and crude fun. In the words of Mike Tyson, "NICE!"
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