Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hangover

From the start I should admit that I can't stand movies where bad things happen to good people. I mean, I must have too much empathy. You should also know that The Hangover is one of those movies; in fact, I can't even tell you all the bad things that happen. But the good news is, I was able to relax and just enjoy the ride.

Three friends are taking their friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), to Las Vegas for his last night of freedom before he gets married. Phil (Bradley Cooper) is a high school teacher who thinks of himself as more of a high roller than that. Stu (Ed Helms) is a dentist, and hopes to one day marry the woman who beats him, controls him, and cheats on him. And Alan (Zach Galifianakis) isn't really a friend at all, but is the future brother-in-law, and kind of comes with the package: the spotless Mercedes Doug's future father-in-law loans him for the trip. You can see disaster coming, can't you?

But, no, you really can't. The whole premise of the movie is that four guys go out on a bachelor party in Vegas. When they wake up in the morning, they've lost Doug, and they can't remember a single detail about the night before. The rest of the movie gives us clues to piece that night together.

You'd think that in a movie like this there would be toilet humor. Yes, there is, but it's kind of a higher level of toilet humor. Like when Alan, the Jack Black look-a-like who really is maybe not dumber but is weirder than he looks, goes to the bathroom in their Vegas suite and is surprised by a tiger. We spend the next hour-and-a-half finding out where the tiger came from. With the added bonus of how they get the tiger back to that original place. It's men-gone-wild as only they can do at a frat or bachelor party, but taken to an interesting place.

In fact, this whole movie is a higher concept from a lower starting point. It's brilliantly written, and draws us into the disaster by making sure we care about the characters, some more slowly than others. It's funny, it's fun, and it's a mystery train that lets us ride along. This is not your usual buddy movie. It's how buddies change amidst wild situations and well-written humor.

Thumb's up.


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