The Hangover is the summer’s breakout comedy, no doubt launching many careers into the A-list, much like, four years ago, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin did for Writer/Director Judd Apatow and its star Steve Carrell. The Hangover may not have the same sense of heart as Virgin but it’s got comedic punch in spades, and you can bet director Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky and Hutch) will be getting his pick of projects (or perhaps not, following up with an ill-advised sequel to Old School) and its writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore now have some serious cachet (their next script will fetch a mint). Since it’s an ensemble piece, its stars may not reach the iconoclastic superstardom of Carrell but Bradley Cooper, who has been floating around Hollywood in a number of lower-profile TV and movie roles, is set to burst out (he’s tipped as Faceman for an A*Team movie, which seems apt). Zach Galifianakis is a notorious oddball comic, although at large noted more for working with his more prosperous peers (David Cross, Sarah Silverman, Tim & Eric) than on his own. His role here will, no doubt, provide the gateway to more prominent roles. Ed Helms, like Steve Carrell, came out of the Daily Show, although Helms first piggybacked off Carrell on The Office for the past few years, but will also receive some much larger supporting roles in movies (or his own tv series).
The movie itself is wild and fun, three best friends and the weird future brother-in-law venture out to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, which starts off simple enough with a toast on the roof of Caesar’s Palace that fades to black, which reemerges in the daylight of the following day, witnessing three of the four men waking up in an absolutely trashed, $4200-a-night villa. The camera pans around the room and it’s a cornucopia of visual details that each have their own story, I’m sure, but the film only gets to relate a scant number of those tales. The odd-man-out is the groom, who is nowhere to be seen. None of the three can remember anything about what happened in the previous 12 hours, and they spent the next 24 hours trying to retrace their steps and track down their friend, learning scant details of their insane evening out.
There are details revealed on the commercial, such as a tiger winding up in their bathroom and a baby in their closet, one of them got married to an escort, also losing a tooth and having an encounter with Mike Tyson (in remarkably unrelated incidents) that are just the tip of the iceberg of what happened on their night out, but even by the end of the film, like a real blackout hangover there still are details unrecovered. The characters are an interesting group, with Justin Bartha playing the lost groom (and straight-man), Doug, while Cooper is the outspoken Phil, a man wishing and ready for freedom from any responsibility. Helms plays Stu, a dentist living in mortal fear of his controlling significant other, while Galifianakis is Alan, Doug’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, a socially awkward and strangely unaware person, played somewhere between aloof and idiotic, but never reaching one extreme or the other.
It’s a deliriously entertaining film, but I have to wonder how well it will play upon multiple viewings. It’s definitely well structured (I like that instead of flashbacks, it reveals its story piecemeal through investigation, discovery and happenstance), and it’s well acted, but does the comedy have legs once you’re already aware of what’s about to unfold. It’s got plenty of silly, slapstick moments, and a few good one-liners (that a great many people were quoting coming out of the theatre) but, unlike Apatow’s films, or a Will Ferrell vehicle, it feels more scripted, less off the cuff, and just may not last beyond the initial viewing.
That said, that first journey of discovery is still a hilarious one.