The Hangover (2009)

Director:  Todd Philips
Cast:  Zach GalifianakisBradley CooperJustin Bartha, Heather Graham
Plot:  A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.

Genre:  Comedy
Awards:  Won 1 Golden Globe - Best Picture (Comedy / Musical)
Runtime:  100min
Rating:  NC16 for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.

Directed by Todd Philips, the Oscar-nominated writer of Borat (2006), comes a film so flat-out hilarious that it is no stretch to claim that it is probably the funniest film of the year, or in recent years for that matter.  The Hangover cranks up the laugh factor a notch above any other comedy with a freshness and originality not seen for a quite a while.  

The story centers on a group of four buddies on a road trip to Las Vegas to celebrate and enjoy a night of wild fun and hard partying before one of them, Doug, gets married in a few days.  The film starts with the day Doug is supposed to get married.  The problem is that he is missing.  His three other friends (Phil, Stu and Alan) are at a loss; they cannot explain Doug’s disappearance, heck, they cannot even explain what is happening to themselves.  

The film then takes a flashback to the morning they started on the trip to the night they checked into Caesars Palace.  It continues to the next morning when they wake up, groggy and all, to find Doug missing, a tiger in the toilet, and a baby in the closet.  As they try to fight paranoia and make sense of their situation, the trio encounters even more problems when more bizarre events unfold by the minute.

The Hangover is creatively told and often plays out in the perspective of the characters.  Elements of mystery invite us to tag along with them, and since we know as little as they do, we are in for an unpredictable ride as well.  The fun in watching the film lies in the comical situations that these clueless characters find themselves in.  

Most of the humor is crude and vile but its explicitness is tamed by its perfect farcical delivery.  And because the approach to the narrative is different, the laugh-out-loud gags do not seem recycled from the Judd Apatow hardware store, even though some of them bear similar resemblance.

The film is made even more satisfying with Todd’s brilliant caricatures of these genre stereotypes: Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a playboy schoolteacher who bribes his students to fund his Vegas trip but is mostly cool and composed.  Stu (Ed Helms) is a dentist with an overbearing fiancĂ© in need of a quick getaway but is often jittery and confused.  

And in the film’s best performance, Zach Galifianakis plays Alan as a fat, dim-witted bloke with weird fetishes but has a heart of gold.  Galifianakis is so convincing in his role that in one of the film’s most funny scenes, he asks the hotel receptionist if this was the real Caesars Palace. “I mean did Caesar really live here?” he quips with childlike innocence.

The Hangover is never a boring affair; every moment is infused with the kind of energy that runs through an action-adventure spectacle.  I rarely say this but this is truly great comedy filmmaking, the kind of film that makes you laugh just by thinking of it.  The Hangover is not to be missed and is almost assured of a spot in my list of top ten films of 2009.


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