×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Hangover

Boys-gone-wild laff riot also clicks as a seriocomic beat-the-clock detective story.

With:
Phil - Bradley Cooper Stu - Ed Helms Alan - Zach Galifianakis Doug - Justin Bartha Jade - Heather Graham Tracy - Sasha Barrese Sid - Jeffrey Tambor Mr. Chow - Ken Jeong Melissa - Rachel Harris Mike Tyson - Himself Black Doug - Mike Epps

The trailers and TV spots suggest it’s just another beer-and-boobs, party-hearty farce, but “The Hangover” is surprisingly clever as well as R-rated rowdy. At once raucously free-wheeling and meticulously contrived, pic satisfies as a boys-gone-wild laff riot that also clicks as a seriocomic beat-the-clock detective story. Reviews and word-of-mouth could help this profanely funny comedy exceed expectations and achieve the status of breakout hit. Homevid biz should be equally impressive after a leggy summertime theatrical run.

Helmer Todd Phillips (“Old School,” “Road Trip”) grabs attention right from the get-go with an edgy-funny prologue that triggers an extended flashback. It’s a smart move, in that the vaguely foreboding intro adds an intriguing undercurrent to the comedy in otherwise ordinary (if not generic) expository scenes.

Two days before he ties the knot with his rich and gorgeous fiancee, blandly affable Doug (Justin Bartha) takes off for a brief Las Vegas sojourn with three groomsmen: His two best buddies — Phil (Bradley Cooper), a cynical and sardonic high school teacher, and Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist usually kept on a tight leash by his nagging girlfriend (a truly monstrous Rachel Harris) — and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Doug’s future brother-in-law, a lumpy lunk who’s all too eager to befriend and belong.

Even with odd-man-out Alan along for the ride, the bachelor-partiers enjoy a wild night of booze-fueled revelry in Sin City. The next morning, however, three of them awaken in their posh hotel suite with only the haziest of memories about the previous evening’s events, and no explanation at all for the snarling tiger in their bathroom and the crying baby in their closet.

Worse, they have no earthly idea what happened to the inexplicably missing Doug.

Exhibiting an ingenuity one might not expect from the same writers who gave us “Four Christmases” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” scripters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore provide one uproarious pay-off after another as the groomsmen frantically scramble to retrace their steps so they can reconnect with the misplaced (or, quite possibly, waylaid) groom.

Their circuitous journey brings them in contact with, among others, Taser-wielding cops, angry Asian gamblers, a perky stripper (a chipper Heather Graham) with newly forged ties to Stu, and an unexpectedly equanimous but not infinitely patient Mike Tyson (played, in a bold stroke of casting, by Tyson).

Early on, it’s revealed that the revelers weren’t merely drunk, they were drugged while cutting an antic swath through the Vegas night world. Oddly enough, that’s just enough to anchor the pic in something like real-world logic, even as the plot takes ever more outlandish twists and turns. In fact, it’s tempting to read “The Hangover” as a wild-and-crazy spin on a scenario that would have been entirely suitable for a deadly serious ’40s film noir.

The humor is unapologetically raunchy — a closing-credits photo montage includes some borderline NC-17 naughtiness — and sporadically brutal. Helmer Phillips sustains an overall tone of anything-goes swagger that he neatly subverts with steadily mounting desperation and ego-deflating humiliations. Throughout it all, however, Cooper, Helms and even Galifianakis (whose character comes closest to caricature) remain sufficiently disciplined to refrain from going too far over the top.

Bartha does well in a thankless role, but he’s simply not visible long enough to make as much impact. On the other hand, Ken Jeong makes the absolute most of his limited screen time as an effete antagonist whose mincing trash talk likely will be quoted extensively by the pic’s fans.

Lenser Lawrence Sher does an excellent job of subtly enhancing the sense of danger lying just below the comic surface. Other tech credits are fine. Jokey references to “Rain Man” and “A Beautiful Mind” are amusing, but not nearly as funny as the pic’s self-aware reference to the cliched notion that there’s nothing as hilarious as a pratfall by a fat man.

The Hangover

Production: A Warner Bros. release and presentation in association with Legendary Pictures of a Green Hat Films production. Produced by Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg. Executive producers, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Scott Budnick, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink. Co-producers, David A. Siegel, Jeffrey Wetzel. Directed by Todd Phillips. Screenplay, Jon Lucas, Scott Moore.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Lawrence Sher; editor, Debra Neil-Fisher; music, Christophe Beck; music supervisors, George Drakoulias, Randall Poster; production designer, Bill Brzeski; supervising art director, Andrew Max Cahn; art director, A. Todd Holland; set decorator, Danielle Berman; costume designer, Louise Mingenbach; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Lee Orloff; assistant director, Jeffrey J.P. Wetzel; casting, Juel Bestrop, Seth Yanklewitz. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, May 20, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Phil - Bradley Cooper Stu - Ed Helms Alan - Zach Galifianakis Doug - Justin Bartha Jade - Heather Graham Tracy - Sasha Barrese Sid - Jeffrey Tambor Mr. Chow - Ken Jeong Melissa - Rachel Harris Mike Tyson - Himself Black Doug - Mike Epps

More Film

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on How to Survive Awards Season With Flair

    An Oscar would certainly be nice, but Richard E. Grant doesn’t need a golden statue to walk away from this awards season as a winner. The 61-year-old actor landed his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jack Hock, the loyal accomplice of author-turned-literary forager Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) in the biopic “Can You [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita: Battle Angel' Banks on Foreign Audiences to Save It From Box Office Disaster

    “Alita: Battle Angel” beat expectations with its $27 million debut at the domestic box office, but Fox’s cyberpunk fantasy adventure has a long road to travel before it can claim victory. When it comes to achieving profitability, the CGI-spectacular may never arrive at that particular destination. With a production budget hovering at $170 million (Fox [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content