The proclamation “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” would be of use for the stag night survivors of The Hangover, if they could only bloody remember the night in question.
Said men are three best friends: there is Stu (Ed Helms) a dentist stuck in an abusive relationship; Phil (Bradley Cooper) a bored teacher and husband anticipating a weekend of action; and groom to be, Doug (Justin Bartha). Joining them in their trek towards the end of bachelordom is future brother in law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who would definitely win a chubby Charles Manson look-a-like contest, if such a thing existed.
Vegas is the destination, and debauchery awaits in the city of sin. Yet just like the many bodies buried in its desert surroundings, the memory of what should have been the merriest nights of single life, has vanished.
It is from its stag night aftermath where The Hangover truly kicks off, as ala Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the boys awaken to a plush Las Vegas hotel suite is tatters; a tiger prows in the bathroom;; a baby screams from a closet; and on top of it all, the groom is missing.
It may sound like the opening of a bad joke, but The Hangover is far from it, as the clueless trio struggle to piece together a scattered jig-saw of excessive partying involving a stripper/escort (Heather Graham); a feminine Chinese gangster (Ken Jeong); and a royally pissed Mike Tyson, who is introduced singing a Phil Collins classic.
With each revelation comes with it some truly terrific laughs, delivered with impeccable timing by its spot on cast, made up mostly of never seen before faces, which gives an unknown edge to the film. Had it been Owen Wilson, Steve Carrell, and Will Ferrell, the viewer would know what to expect. But with Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis, there is a fresh and unassuming tone though out it all.
Galifianakis in particular is a standout. From memorable guise – which leads to one side character to name him “Fat Jesus” – to his awkward yet deliriously on pitch comic delivery, Galifianakis gives one of the more memorable comedic turns in recent memory.
The Hangover is directed by Todd Phillips. With credits including Old School and Road Trip, Phillips has honed his knack for delivering stories about immature men stuck in exceptional circumstances, and here he has reached the zenith of his comedic talent.
Yet it is not all smooth sailing. The level of crudeness has reached a new high – or should that be low? – in its admission of a couple of borderline creepy sequences, one of which involves a baby pretending to jerk off. Surely having the mantle of the first mainstream film to contain a baby simulating masturbation is not one to be proud of, and it continues the disturbing trend of new comedies using infants as props, e.g. Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die sketch which stars a 4 year old as a cussing, drunken landlord.
These instances aside, a fun time is had watching these three men piece together a night that never was, something of an old school detective story mixed with a heavy dose of adult humour. Better comedies have been released, yet not many as brazen as The Hangover.