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The Hangover Hits Bottom for Laughs

  • Christian Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2009 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
<i>The Hangover</i> Hits Bottom for Laughs

DVD Release Date:  December 15, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  June 5, 2009
Rating:  R (for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time:  100 min.
Director:  Todd Phillips
Actors:  Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor

Hangover:
1. Unpleasant physical effects following the heavy use of alcohol. 2. A letdown, as after a period of excitement. (The American Heritage Dictionary)


The Hangover, a new R-rated comedy, graphically portrays the former definition, and the early critical reactions constitute a "period of excitement" as noted in the latter definition, as film reviewers fall all over themselves to praise this excessive film.

However, for some of us, the mention of "a letdown" in definition number two is a more appropriate descriptor for the film.

The Hangover continues—and accelerates—the trend toward outrageous, raunchy "R"-rated comedies. That domain, dominated by writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), can make room for Todd Phillips among its list of big names. Phillips, who also directed Old School, has added a second outrageous comedy to his oeuvre, and the resulting film is so hotly anticipated that the studio behind it green-lit a sequel weeks before the first film opened in theaters.

After the closing-credits photo montage of The Hangover, one can only shudder at how the studio plans to one-up the sex-and-drugs storyline in a sequel.

In the film, four friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, and three of them awaken the next morning, fogged over and unable to remember what happened the previous night. Worse, they have no recollection of what happened to the fourth person in their party—the groom-to-be.

The three friends are Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and the missing groomsman is Doug (Justin Bartha), but the film is less interested in relationship dynamics—Doug's impending wedding included—than it is in the dawning revelation of what happened during the boys' wild night.

After the foursome leave behind their strong-willed significant others, they drive to Vegas and check into Caesar's Palace, but the trip and their arrival are preliminary to the morning after, as the men try to piece together what happened the previous night. Phillips draws out the revelations about the visitors' antics slowly. When they call for their car, a valet brings them a police vehicle and refers to them as officers. A professional escort (Heather Graham) smilingly tells Stu that she's his new wife. Stu's disorientation is heightened by a missing tooth. And then there are the chickens—as well as a tiger belonging to Mike Tyson—in the guys' hotel room. And a crying baby. Then Mike Tyson himself shows up. He wants his tiger back and isn't afraid to use his fists to get his message across.

The women in the film include a highly flustered bride, an oppressive shrew and a pole dancer. No female role models here. As for the men, it's one social misfit, one emotionally docile boyfriend, a too-cool school teacher and a groom who's little more than a plot device.

There's not much more to say about the storyline of The Hangover, which will be beloved by older teens and college-age guys, as well as young adults. Even your friendly, close-to-middle-age film critic, found a few things to laugh at during the film. But the increasingly bizarre happenings—an angry, naked Asian; stun-gun demonstrations carried out in front of young students—begin to feel all too predictable, and the physical pain inflicted upon the main characters as a means of generating chuckles becomes more uncomfortable than amusing.

Younger viewers who haven't seen the great comedies of earlier decades may herald The Hangover as a classic of the genre. Those who know better may enjoy The Hangover to a point, but they'll wake up the next morning wondering what it was they saw in the film.

A suggested remedy:  Watch two Charlie Chaplin comedies and call me in the morning.


Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@verizon.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  A joke about a "designated drunk driver"; smoke rises from ashtrays in the men's hotel room after their wild night; the men are so hungover they can't remember what happened the night before; a man drives drunk; the men discover their drinks were laced with the "date rape" drug; a man says he used to do three hits of ecstasy a day.
  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; coarse language throughout, including reference to sex acts; a woman extends her middle finger; use of "gay" in a jokey manner; reference to strippers and cocaine; a wedding singer sings sexually suggestive songs.
  • Sex/Nudity:  A man's rear end is shown; reference to activities at strip clubs; a man comes to terms with an earlier act of infidelity by the woman he loves; masturbation; a woman is said to be "grossed out by seaman"; a man walks around in his underwear; a man appears to be giving oral sex to a woman; scene of urination; anatomical jokes; female breasts exposed; a woman identifies herself a stripper, or more technically, an escort; jokes about sex with a corpse and with a tiger; a photo of a man receiving oral sex, and other photos of debauchery.
  • Violence/Crime:  A man says he is not permitted to be near schools or Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, where young people gather; a man cuts his palm; the men, mistaken for police officers, take advantage of that mistake; a baby is left in a car, with the window cracked; reckless driving; a naked man attacks the friends; men take a baseball bat to a car windshield; a shopkeeper is shot; young students carry out a stun-gun demonstration on the friends; Mike Tyson punches one of the friends.
  • Gambling:  Scenes of people in casinos.
  • Marriage:  A man believes he has married a pole dancer.