The Hangover: Blame It On The A-A-A-A-A-Alcohol

The Hangover, the best comedy yet by Todd Phillips– who’s no slouch, having directed Road Trip and Old School– is the quintessential comedy of surprise. It overwhelms you with so many potential comic situations that each new revelation comes as a terrific shock. I’m not convinced that the film will continue to play upon repeated viewings the way it does the first time, but it’s a rarity nowadays for a film’s comedy to come from the plot machinations rather than from quotables and ad-libbed riffs. It goes to show that a high concept with no big name actors can still be an enormous success when properly executed, and with this film, Todd Phillips shows that he’s merely as good as the ramblings of the Vince Vaughns, Seann William Scotts, and Will Ferrells that he casts in his films. He’s a genuinely talented comedy director, and with The Hangover, he’s delivered the under-the-radar funniest film thus far this year.

The concept is simple. Doug (Justin Bartha) is three days away from being married, and his two best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) are taking him to Vegas for his bachelor party. Tagging along is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the brother of the bride-to-be, who is strange– and that’s putting it mildly. They vow to have the greatest night ever. The next morning, Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in a totally trashed Vegas hotel suite, with Doug nowhere in sight, and zero memory of the night before at all. I wouldn’t dare spoil what they find, since following those clues is what they use in hopes of finding their friend, with his wedding hour rapidly approaching.

Let’s talk about the three friends. Bradley Cooper, so funny as the villainous Sack in Wedding Crashers, hits the perfect blend of jerk and charming lead– I wouldn’t be surprised if this film catapulted him to play Paul Rudd or Vince Vaughn types of roles. He’s easy on the eyes for the ladies, and cool and funny enough for the guys– an incredible combination. Ed Helms plays a variation on the slow burn he displays as Andy on The Office, the high-strung man kept on a tight leash by his woman. Every time I see him in a film, he gets a laugh– even little two line cameos like in Night at the Museum 2. Will Judd Apatow make a movie with him as the lead already?

Finally, there’s Zach Galifianakis. If you didn’t know who he is before, you will now. He is one of the funniest stand-up comedians working today, probably my favorite. He fills his set with non-sequitur one-liners, and underneath it all is an intensity that seems to suggest he cherishes awkward moments more than the average joe. His performance in this film will break him out the way that Tom Green broke out in Road Trip and Will Ferrell broke out in Old School– Todd Phillips usually has one performance per film that makes everyone sit up and want that same sort of weirdness in other films. He is completely fearless and embraces the truly uncomfortable moments that Alan has. There are multiple times when things are occurring onscreen that makes the characters recoil and look away… except Alan. Also, in the closing credits, which you absolutely must stay for, Alan pushes the limits of what can be shown in an R-rated film and will leave you reeling from laughter as you exit the film.

Which is exactly why Todd Phillips places that moment right at the end– the true star of this film is the writer/director (well, or Ken Jeong, who steals every scene he’s in… but I won’t spoil how he’s involved). He’s crafted the plot perfectly from the concept, placing little morsels at every shift and turn to keep us satisfied. He lets it start slow, until about fifteen to twenty minutes in when they wake up from their party, and from there it roars until the finish. Both Road Trip and Old School were far choppier, with very stale lead characters and episodic laughs that hit hard but made the films feel like they went from setpiece to setpiece. Here, he has eliminated the lead for most of the film and has created a story that justified the episodic nature. Will the film still be as funny the second time, after all of the surprises are known? I suspect so. Regardless of whether it is or not, Phillips has hit a homerun that will almost certainly have legs and be one of the most profitable films of the summer. Comedy directors, take note: you don’t need big names and you don’t need a big budget. Funny will sell. And this summer, Todd Phillips at this point is the top salesman.

~ by russellhainline on June 7, 2009.

3 Responses to “The Hangover: Blame It On The A-A-A-A-A-Alcohol”

  1. It does look great fun… Must make an effort to go and watch this. Some great pictures over on SkyMovies:

  2. I saw it twice and it was just as funny the second time. I’m sure Bradley Cooper becomes the next big comedic actor.

  3. Yeah, the movie’s hilarous. I just snatched up this shirt: Hee-larious.

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