“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except herpies. That shit comes back with you.”
Never have truer words been spoken, as evidenced by this mother-of-all-mornings-after-the-night-before film from the director of Old School and Road Trip, Todd Philips. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married in two days, so his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are taking him to Las Vegas for his stag night. Beginning the night with a toast of Jagermeister may have not been the smartest idea ever, however, as they awake in their trashed hotel room with a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and the groom missing. And so, the posse set out to find their misplaced buddy, and embark on the hangover-day-from-hell.
Where The Hangover avoids being cliché by showing us the boys ever more outrageous antics is by starting with the aftermath, and slowly but surely filling in all the salient details from the night of debauchery. While admittedly, it is more of a narrative necessity than a stylistic choice, the effect is the same, and it vastly contributes to The Hangover’s charm. It is aided further by mostly eschewing big name stars, with the relatively unknown cast bringing an additional feeling of realness and freshness to the table.
It’s superb to see Ed Helms making his big screen breakout, and I genuinely hope he gets more from it, as he possesses unparalleled skill as a comedic doormat, and I didn’t even feel enormously envious of him when he got make out with Heather Graham. But, from a pure one-liners point of view, the stand out winner is Zach Galifianakis: “It would be so cool if I could breast feed.”, “Did Caesar live here?”, “I didn’t know they gave out rings during the Holocaust!”
Incredibly, the film is written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the duo responsible for the celluloid rape that is Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past. I say incredibly because the film is superbly written, with some beautifully off-beat and quirky jokes, and perhaps more laugh-out-loud moments than anything I’ve watched since Crank 2. Not many film can boast having Mike Tyson air-drum to In The Air Tonight, a bizarrely confrontational Asian gangster who is introduced to us when he leaps naked out of the boot of the car and begins attacking Stu, a baby who is made to mime masturbating, a fat kid tasering Fat Jesus in the face and a band singing a bizarre lounge version of 50 Cent’s Candy Shop while gyrating in front of a granny.
There’s also some great direction from Philips, and the shots over the open credits of Las Vegas in the bright sunlight perfectly represent the sobering regret that is to come with the morning it brings. Vegas is a night city, full of bright, flashy lights, full of enormous bombast and excess in its architecture – it is a dream city. Yet the harsh light of the morning strips away the illusion, wakes you from the dream revealing Vegas for what it truly is: a horrendously tacky place, devoid of soul. It is a parlour trick, a con. All of this wonderfully underscores the mood that the film opens with. You can almost feel the headaches yourself…
The Hangover is, hands down, in my top 3 funniest films this year. It’s a joy to watch, the gags are great and the cast are refreshing. This one’s a must see. A.