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The Hangover (2009) Dir. Tod Phillips 17 June 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Cinema Review.
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Arriving in the wake of a thousand Judd Apatow produced ‘comedies’ The Hangover arrived in cinemas this week to rave reviews on both sides of the pond, and for good reason, it’s easily the funniest American film of the year.

A healthy laugh quotient is crucial to the success of a comedy, but all too often they live or die based on their concept (a 40 year old virgin – brilliant! Paul Rudd looking for a best man for his wedding – not so brilliant). And while Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s script contains nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before it works well enough, providing a satisfactory framework for the myriad of increasingly bizarre scenarios our protagonists get themselves into.

Bradley Cooper (who some might remember from Alias way back), Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and scene stealer Zach Galifianakis play four friends who spend Doug’s (Bartha’s) final night as a bachelor in Vegas only to wake up the following morning with no recollection of the previous night’s events, a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the closet. To top it all off Doug in nowhere to be found and with less than 48 hours before the wedding Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis set out to find their friend encountering a stripper, a naked angry Chinese man and a creepy, creepy Mike Tyson along the way.

Complex plotting it ‘aint but The Hangover manages to provide enough mystery about the proceedings to keep viewers interested from one scene to the next, with some subtle early hints for eagle eyed viewers making the eventual solution painfully obvious. But where the film really excels is in making you laugh, and if you’re anything like me not just giggles and half-hearted smiles but full on belly laughs. Some elements fall flat as with any comedy (such as most bits with Tyson, or maybe that’s just me) but on the whole it’s fair to say Phillips has done an excellent job at keeping the jokes consistently brilliant throughout the film’s 100 minute run-time with few noticeable drops in pace or lulls in the action.

Cooper and Helms do a good job as the more cliched characters of the trio (the smooth talker and the uptight voice of reason) but it’s Galifianakis who emerges as a talent to keep an eye on. His Alan again is nothing we haven’t really seen before, the lovable idiot, but the bewildering stupidity of most of his actions, eminently quotable one liners (“We’re a wolf pack of four, wandering the desert, searching for strippers and cocaine”) and spot on moments of schlubby physical comedy (taser in the face – brilliant) make for a truly memorable comedy hero.

There are a few problems – Heather Graham is given little to do in her part as Helms’ overnight bride, Mike Epps is just plain annoying in every film he’s in and the final moment of revelation which hinges on one character’s epiphany rather than any logical plot progression, but these faults are more than outweighed by the comedic assault Phillips and company have put together.

It’s refreshing to see an American comedy which doesn’t follow the tired Apatow formula, with promising new talent, a solid story and enough laughs to keep you in fits throughout. While it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of In the Loop as the best comedy of the year so far Judd Apatow’s upcoming Funny People will have to be something special to dethrone an unexpected comedy gem. This is one hangover I look forward to living through again.

Up Next… John Woo’s Red Cliff

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