Thursday, June 18, 2009

Man on Film: The Hangover

I was pretty damned excited to see this--so much so that I hit up an opening day matinee.

Despite having seen so much footage before the movie's release that I found myself sitting in the theater waiting for segments that were in one of the myriad trailers/teaser/TV spots, The Hangover was insanely good. There should also be an emphasis on the word 'insanely' in the previous sentence.

The Hangover is an raucous comic mystery with an anarchic spirit that pushes this film into realms not often explored in mainstream cinema. If you are wondering what I'm talking about, stick around for the slide show at the end of the film.

Since Todd Phillips directed Old School and Road Trip (and oddly, the G.G. Allin rockumentary Hated, which actually makes a little more sense than the other two which are fairly milquetoast in comparison to The Hangover), there are obviously going to comparisons to those films.

For instance, one reviewer (someone at The Onion A.V. Club) complained that "[Bradley] Cooper is all Vince Vaughn smarm with no Vince Vaughn vulnerability" and says that like it is a bad thing. Perhaps the biggest problem with Old School is the scene in which Vaughn's character is in the bedroom with the co-ed and tells her that he's married. It seems completely out of character for the guy who seems to be pushing for them to do every depraved thing and adds a morality to the character that is completely forced. In The Hangover, Bradley Cooper is playing that archetype but to an unapologetically dickish end to great effect.

But I digress. Ed Helms is great as the henpecked pseudo-husband/dentist who inevitably cuts loose the most when the inhibitions are lowered. Justin Bartha, of National Treasure sidekick fame, is good in a limited role as the misplaced groom. In smaller roles, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Epps, and Mike Tyson are all great.

The star of the film, however, is the scene-stealing Zach Galifianakis, whose Alan is completely unhinged. Alan's insanity and the unpredictability of his actions take this film to a level that would not have been reached otherwise. Without Galifianakis, the film would probably not work very well. As is also prevalent in his stand-up routine, Galifianakis (who was recently profiled in the New York Times Magazine) brings an unnerving energy to the role. As the events of the night past become illuminated, more often than not the impetus for the most insane acts carried out by the bachelor party was from the mind of the warped Alan.

What is maybe most refreshing about the film is that there isn't a lot of time wasted trying to embue each character with a heart of gold. Cooper's Phil steals from his students and hates his life. Galifianakis's Alan is the embodiment of unhinged anarchy. Even the most sympathetic character, Helms's Stu is often a dick to the aloof social retard (that word being perhaps the funniest little throw-away line of the movie) Alan.

Sure, a fair chunk of the plunk can be divined from the trailers, but I would say that is mostly irrelevant. Galifianakis's presence cannot be properly shown in a trailer. The movie, which is solid through and through, really should be seen. Probably more than once. I know I intend to see it again.

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