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THE HANGOVER (2009) ***1/2 movie review by COOP

Posted on June 12th, 2009
Posted on June 12th, 2009


Here’s a no-brainer concept.

A party-animal teacher (Bradley Cooper) and a henpecked dentist (Ed Helms) take their soon-to-be-married buddy (Justin Bartha) on a bachelor party romp for one night in Vegas with the bride’s weird brother (Zack Galifianakis) in tow. After a round of Jägermeister shots, the group blacks out. They awaken to find their villa trashed, a Bengal tiger in the bathroom, a crying baby in the closet and the bridegroom missing. With the wedding in Los Angeles fast approaching, the trio must piece together the previous night’s sequence of events to find their friend and get him to the chapel on time.

Easier said than done. With each bizarre clue they discover just how perilous finding their friend will be. Nice little touches get the viewer’s imagination working, like a live chicken strutting around the villa or the valet handing them the keys to a police car instead of their Mercedes. Where did THAT come from? The fun is in the discovery.

I’m surprised no one has done this type of story since “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Seems like a multi-million dollar idea: A giant, movie-sized “What happens in Vegas… Yadda Yadda” commercial is long over due. With a good scriptwriter, funny actors and a halfway decent director, this one can’t lose at the box office. “The Hangover” is the raunchy comedy to beat in 2009 and will surely gather a large cult following from the college-bound crowd.

Of course this film requires an audience with a sense of humor that isn’t bothered by irresponsibility and inappropriateness. It won’t win any fans from M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) but I did hear a few guys in the audience yell out things like, “Man, I’ve been there!” or “That happened to me once!” I suppose it’s funniest to those who’ve had one of those nights and lived to talk about it. Do the math and you’ll realize that’s probably a pretty large portion of the population.

We’ve got a lot of big comedy acting talent here. Bradley Cooper, on the fast track to going A-list, plays the leader of the group who spends most of the time telling the others to “Relax!” and then laughing wildly in the face of mortal danger. He’s got enough charisma to talk his away out of almost any impossible situation. Take note, kids… it’s good to have a friend like that. Zack Galifianakis recently made a name for himself doing bizarre celebrity interviews, appearing on absurdist comedy shows and cavorting like a madman on TV. Here he comes across as childlike, lovable and hilariously dim. His “Wolfpack” speech will become a cult phenom at fraternity initiations around the country. Ed Helms surprises not only because he unassumingly delivers the best lines, but that he manages to put Cooper and Galifianakis in their place for most of the film. His character arc satisfies more than all others and his “Tiger Song” will also go down in history as a golden comedic moment.

A few other notable personalities pop up but none steal the show quite as craftily as Ken Jeong as the effeminate card hustler/gangster, Mr. Chow. He pokes fun at how other films poke fun at stereotypes and scores a decisive comedic win in process. His character’s shocking entrance and his tasteless one-liners easily evoke the biggest belly laughs in the film. I had high hopes for him after his uproarious performance as King Argotron in “Role Models” last year and he has yet to disappoint. Keep an eye on that guy.

Biggest complaint: The trailer and the TV promos for “The Hangover” ruined the set up to some of its best jokes. Not all, mind you, but I wish the marketing department had kept a certain celebrity cameo appearance a complete surprise. Instead, I spent half the movie waiting for that moment and when it came, it fell flat. Not to worry. There’s plenty to laugh at. Like “The Wedding Crashers,” “Old School,” “Animal House” and “Dazed and Confused” before it, this one will one achieve the status of a classic comedy for those who like their laughs rude, obnoxious and very immature.

File this under “F” for fraternity humor. If you’re not up for that or you’re just not all that hip, avoid this one. College kids, this one’s yours. Hurry up and see it before you go to the next social function and you feel left out of the “wolf pack” because all the cool kids talking about when the next time the Jonas Brothers are coming to town (seriously, you won’t understand any of that unless you see it). Also, expect the price of Jägermeister to go through the roof since “The Hangover” uses the potent liquor’s reputation as a plot device. You have been warned.

Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5 stars

-Coop

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