Saturday, June 6, 2009

REVIEW: The Hangover...


There are genres in the world of cinema, that, no matter the case, I will in some way shape or form be excited for a release of a film within it.

Broad sex comedy is not one of them, yet there was something about The Hangover that had be excited. However, I was left a bit underwhelmed.

The Hangover is the newest film from Todd Phillips, whose probably best known as the man behind the solid comedy, Old School. It is a broad comedy that doesn't have to deep of a plot. It's simply a tale about three guys; Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who are unable to remember what happened the night before, and in turn lose their friend Doug (Justin Bartha), who just happens to be getting married in two days, after his bachelor party in Las Vegas. A comedy of errors ensues that features everything and everyone from a White Chapel Wedding to Mike Tyson, and everything in between. However, it doesn't have one thing that really makes a great film; substance.

The film follows three friends, all of which, are given a mixed bag of performances. The biggest name star of this film is Bradley Cooper, who has been on quite the rampage lately. After making it kinda-big with performances in Wet Hot American Summer and particularly Kitchen Confidential, he may be most famous for playing the obnoxious fiance in Wedding Crashers. However, with a turn in He's Just Not That Into You and rumors of taking over The Green Lantern and maybe even Face of the A-Team, he's bound for an even bigger time in the years coming. And here's to hoping, because this film sort of proves that his shtick may be getting old.

Phil is a school teacher who is bored in his married life (think same character from He's Just Not That Into You), and while he's fine in the role, within the film you can definitely get an Old School aesthetic from it (he's basically the same character as Vince Vaughn's in Old School), and he doesn't really fill the depressed shoes like Vaughn did. It's a bit one note, and where you see a glimpse of heart at the end, when Alan begins to break down a bit, he sticks to close to the mud of his beginning character point, that it's all sort of for naught.

Ed Helms is also in the same boat. Helms plays Stu, a dentist who is set to propose to his obnoxiously controlling girlfriend, who has not only cheated on him, but has beaten him two time earlier in their relationship (it's not as vicious as it sounds, but it's a major character point). He sticks with her because he's afraid to leave, and while his character does change, it feels a bit forced. He does have a relationship with a hooker, where much of the films heart comes from near the end of the film, but it's to little to late. The film is apologetically dark and vulgar, but that doesn't exclude the possibility of a character arch for it's two primary leads.

However, Galifianakis saves this film, at least as much as his bearded character can. He plays Alan, the soon to be Brother-in-Law of Doug's, and who happens to be smart, but socially not all there. Every single line coming out of his mouth and involving him are pure gold. He has pitch perfect comedic timing, and hits almost every single note. The film also allows him to do almost anything he wants, and this freedom allows him to crack jokes about everything from Haley's Comet, to Who Let The Dog's Out (the biggest miss for him).

Allowing these characters to destroy Vegas is Todd Phillips, who besides Old School has helmed such epic comedy classics like Starsky and Hutch and Road Trip (just a little sarcasm there? I think so), and this film is somewhere in between in quality, but beyond any of his previous canon in vulgarity. Phillips pretty much has free reign with what he wants his characters to do, and while this doesn't always work, it does lead to many a laugh. There are a few flawed comedic set pieces (particularly a pointless dessert piece and a bit involving getting a tiger out of a hotel room), but this film will really leave you in the aisles. It's more Road Trip than Old School, but it's a film that can only be made with two, or three, giant balls.

But that's really where the quality ends.

The films main flaw comes in it's overall substance. While it IS simply a broad comedy (that really works in that form), other comedies such as I Love You, Man have shown us that broad comedies can have something a bit more substantial. The film is about three friends looking for their lost buddy, and that's basically it. It's a plot that allows these characters to run around Vegas, and while that's fun to watch, it doesn't make for anything more. When many people go on vacations, they either take their digital cameras with them, or buy a disposable camera, and this is basically the disposable camera version of a film. It gives you a ton of laughs in the moment, but once you are done, you simply toss it to the side.

The film's pacing is also really weird, particularly in the opening 20 minutes. The opening 20 minutes is the lead up to the "morning-after", and it basically feels like top 40 mixtape with dialogue in between. You basically go from meeting a character, then a Rhianna song, meet another character, T-Pain song, drive to Las Vegas with a Flo Rida song on it, repeat. It's an uninspiring soundtrack, and where the voice of the film feels very fresh for a wide release comedy, the soundtrack is on the other end. The script is solid, and while the look of the film and direction features some inspiring looks (the use of Aronofsky's snory cam for example), doesn't really make me stand up and cheer. Vegas is a beautiful place, and the film while beautiful, doesn't do much beyond your standard comedy fair. It is more cinematic than a standard comedy, but it doesn't have many shots you will be remembering, except on little photo at the end of the film.

However, the film will hit huge with audiences, as it did with the pack of hyenas that I saw it with. You all will be quoting it for the rest of your lives when you see it, so go check the damn film out. Just don't expect to see anything particularly interesting.

THE HANGOVER - 7/10

Go see something good!

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