ARCHIVE REVIEW: The Hangover

The Hangover
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (screenplay)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha

When you’re watching comedy, it’s interesting to pause for a moment and examine why a joke was intended to be funny.  What is the target of the joke, and who is it aimed at?  In mainstream Hollywood’s comedy, more often than not, you’ll find that answer to be pretty simple: masculinity is the target, and men are obviously the intended recipients as well as the writers, directors, and stars.

Rarely has this been more apparent than in Todd Phillips’ The Hangover, a runaway box office success and a raunchy male fantasy with a nasty aftertaste.  It takes that guy party in Vegas idea that zips through many films (Knocked Up is a recent example) and instead of devoting maybe 15 or so minutes, builds an entire movie out of it.

The premise is stale, but the way Phillips chooses to confront it is quite clever.  Instead of showing the actual party and the grotesque endeavors of this self-proclaimed “Wolf Pack,” we are there at the start of the party, and we wake up after it with the extremely confused man-children.  This slight noir tint to the comedic proceedings is intriguing to say the least, but that pretty much ends with the concept.

From the “What did we do last night?!” scene onward, things still get crazy and predictably spiral out of control, with the groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifiankis) trying to locate the groom (Justin Bartha) and get him to his wedding.  Aside from the getting-married-while-drunk Vegas staple, most of the gags are quite original even if a lot of them aren’t funny on a second viewing.

The Hangover doesn’t run into many problems (besides that racist Asian stereotype) in Vegas even if the characters do.  Once the kids are allowed to run rampant with no women to save them, it’s fun to watch if not to watch again and again and again.  Before though, when we’re confronting these alleged “female characters,” we’re faced with caricatures of insecurity or complete evil (Rachael Harris).  At this point, we should be used to men getting all the funny lines in modern movies, but Phillips takes it a step further.  He makes Rachael Harris, the girlfriend of Stu (Helms), “funny” because she’s an absolute bitch, one that is meant to represent the fun-sucking nature that we (Phillips winks at the men here) know is inherent in the female sex.

It’s not until Heather Graham, doing her best Julia Roberts hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Pretty Woman gig comes on that an ideal vision of womanhood is portrayed.  This movie operates under the assumption that women hold men back from living fun lives, but that’s nothing revolutionary in Hollywood.   The huge success of The Hangover ensures that it won’t be going anytime soon, either.

This movie may not be known for its not-so-subtle misogyny, but it is known for the breakout comedic performance of Zach Galifianakis.  He has the comedic timing of his innocent-seeming deviant down, and scores many deadly-quiet laughs to mix in with the plethora of physical yuks.

In addition to Galifianakis’ deft comedic turn, Ed Helms is also a breakout comedic presence even if his character embodies the emasculated slave that is often the yin to the woman-hating yang.

Bradley Cooper fits right into his role as the cocky, over-indulgent Phil.  Phil and Stu are supposed to be the relatable characters, and are also opposite ends of the spectrum.  Stu is controlled by his wife, Phil claims to hate his.

The Hangover is funny while you’re watching it, not many deny that.  But after the end credits (which are actually funnier than the movie) roll and you’re afforded an opportunity to think, it comes off as bitter.  These men were allowed their weekend of chaos in Sin City, and now they return to face the music of their everyday lives, most of them grateful for the women their movie secretly hates

Grade: C-

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6 thoughts on “ARCHIVE REVIEW: The Hangover

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: The Hangover Part II | CyniCritics

  2. Todd Phillips’ The Hangover (2009) has a simple/terrifyingly relatable premise: Four buddies head to Vegas for the bachelor party of a lifetime and wake up the next morning with no memory and a trail of destruction in their wake. Oh, and the foursome is now a threesome, with the groom having been misplaced at some point during the evening. Of course, few still-living humans can claim to have enjoyed as wild a night as the boys in The Hangover, but even the most innocent of us have a semi-similar story to report. The movie completely lacks any satisfying emotional arc for any of the major characters, and it doesn’t really bring anything new to genre, as say Observe and Report (2009) did (which I’m still not convinced is actually a comedy). However, The Hangover is an excellent movie. It’s more consistently funny that most comedies from the past decade, and director Phillips brings a unique and highly appealing visual style that makes the ride that much more enjoyable. The picture also moves along pretty quickly. Most importantly, the cast are phenomenally entertaining. Cooper is perhaps the only actor today who can play really likable jerks, Helms shines in his long-deserved lead role, and Galifianakis successfully transports his bizarre stand-up persona into a breakout performance. If you’ve ever woken up at one in the afternoon with a pounding skull and a fractured memory full of shame and regret, then you’re sure to find something in The Hangover to enjoy. And if you’ve never experienced the above, maybe you’ll just enjoy seeing a grown man get tased in the face.

  3. Pingback: REVIEW: Dark Horse | CyniCritics

  4. Pingback: REVIEW: The Hangover Part III | CyniCritics

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