Intoxicating laughs

June 8, 2009, midnight | By Jeremy Gradwohl | 11 years, 4 months ago

This "Hangover" deserves two Tylenols and some water

The remnants of a night in Las Vegas: a trashed hotel room, someone else's baby, Mike Tyson's tiger and a splitting headache. Only in Vegas can a well-respected dentist get married to a stripper and have no memory of it. But after a night of hardcore partying in sin city, one thing in the morning is inevitable.

"The Hangover" tells the tale of four 30-somethings who take a bachelor party too far. The four create an odd comic mixture: Doug (Justin Bartha), the groom, travels with his timid friend Stu (Ed Helms), who is relentlessly bossed around by his uptight girlfriend and his friend Phi (Bradley Cooper), the laid-back schoolteacher who embezzles his student's field trip funds. Doug's slob brother-in-law-to-be Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who rocks a purse that he insists on calling a "satchel," also tags along. The groom's two best friends and his odd brother-in-law wake up after a night of partying with no idea where the groom is or any recollection of the past night. The remaining three work towards finding their lost comrade before his marriage in two days by piecing together clues they find strewn around. Rather than show the crazy night of partying, the movie skips straight to the next day and forces the viewer to follow along with the boys' investigations.

What ultimately makes "The Hangover" a success is its three leading actors, who seem to fulfill Sigmund Freud's "id, ego and superego" psychoanalytical structure. Ed Helms plays the rational "superego" that brings the same quality of comic relief that he did when he was on "The Daily Show." Helms' character contrasts with the brother-in-law played by Zach Galifianakis, whose rudimentary, instinctive manner casts him as the "id" of the group. Bradley Cooper's cool schoolteacher plays the "ego" character that balances the group but seems to get upstaged by the other two in some scenes.

Director Todd Phillipps (Old School, Borat) lands all of the right jokes at the right points. The jokes about the crude brother-in-law never get old and neither do the situations that the three encounter throughout the film. The movie makes no attempts at remaining realistic. However, as other adventure comedy movies like "Harold and Kumar" lose their comic appeal by creating scenarios that are too ludicrous, "The Hangover" manages to weave a story that still remains believable.

"The Hangover" seems to pay subtle homage to Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." The character pans across a trashed hotel room the next morning which looks reminiscently similar to the room that Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro stay in after a long time of hard drug use. The boys try to recreate their night from memory and find their friend which is similar to how Depp's character loses Del Toro and attempts to piece together his stay in sin city. However, "The Hangover" brings a new perspective to the male-oriented, Vegas movie.

The obstacle that the characters must overcome is their own memory, which takes them all over Las Vegas. The boys drink, mingle with strippers, have a hotel party, get a midnight marriage and even count cards at a high stakes table in a casino. But the movie has a definite moral message for its audience, that there are no morals on a Vegas bachelor party.

"The Hangover" is rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Jeremy Gradwohl. Jeremy is a good, upstanding citizen. He likes the city of Takoma Park, baseball, good music and the Orioles back in the day when they had Cal Ripken Jr. Nature also plays a big part in his life. More »

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