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Beer and loathing fuel a halfway decent Hangover

by Glen Baity

Drunk stories tend to be more entertaining for the teller than they are for the listener.

It’s a given that some very funny things can happen when you’ve had a few too many, but chances are if your story begins with five shots of Jäger, it’ll end with “I guess you had to be there.” So it’s appropriate that The Hangover is only kind of funny, the sort of long anecdote you’ll chuckle at and mostly forget within hours. The film chronicles one epic Vegas bender masquerading as a bachelor party. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married, and to celebrate he packs up his best friends Stu and Phil (Ed Helms, Bradley

Cooper) and his weirdo future brotherin-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) for a night in the Sin City. What is supposed to be an evening of mild debauchery turns into a veritable mixtape of bad ideas. The boys wake up to a trashed hotel suite and no memory of the preceding night. The groom has gone missing, and nobody has any clue where he is or how he got there. And the wedding is one day away. The bulk of the film centers on Stu, Phil and Alan’s frantic efforts to piece together the events of the previous evening in time to find Doug and get him back to his bride safely. To do that, they’ll have to answer a series of questions: Why is there a tiger in the bathroom? Why is there a newborn baby in the closet? Why is Stu missing a tooth? And where did they leave their car? That last question might trigger a memory: Yes, you have seen this before. It’s Dude, Where’s My Car? Thankfully, The Hangover has more laughs and 100 percent less Ashton Kutcher, so if you’re going to see a movie featuring dopes looking for their car (among other things), see this one. Director Todd Phillips has had a hit-or-miss career — he’s responsible for sub-par efforts like Road Trip and the School for Scoundrels remake, but he also gave the world Frank the Tank in 2003’s Old School, which may have been his career peak.

The Hangover lands somewhere in the middle, though it’s on the funny side. Credit the cast, ably led by Cooper and Helms, but also stocked with excellent support from comic actors like Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Riggle and Ken Jeong. Galifianakis, for his part, does pretty well in what could have been a real breakout role. He scores some big laughs, but in retrospect I think The Hangover is too conventional a film for his insane, Kaufmanesque brand of comedy. He never quite fits. This is the kind of boys-club fantasy that has become Phillips’ specialty over the last decade. These films take place in a simple universe where men never mature much beyond their freshman year of college, and women are generally nagging, shrewish or easily pleased. To ask for better characters might be expecting a bit too much. These films are He’s Just Not That Into You for dudes: You go because you know exactly what you’re going to get. Consequently, You’re better off enjoying The Hangover for what it is, and to be sure, it gives you a pleasant enough 100 minutes for your buck. I was laughing a good portion of the time, but at no point was I in danger of falling out of my chair. The film is funny, but be warned, there are fewer memorable gags here than even Starsky and Hutch. After viewing, you might find yourself in the same predicament as Stu, Phil and Alan, unable to remember much of what just happened.

To comment on this article, send your e-mail to glen.baity@gmail.com.

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