One of the most satisfying things about The Hangover is that what you've seen in the trailer is what you get. Not in the sense that there are no surprises (oh, holy cow there are surprises) but in the sense that if the movie looks good to you when you watch the trailer, it's highly likely you'll love the movie (and the opposite is true as well). I found it to be funny and crude and perfectly cast. There are a few clunky scenes and the script isn't exactly flawless, but the characters are so great and so hilarious together, you can't help but be pulled into this totally messed up adventure.
Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to get married and his two pals, Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are bringing him to Las Vegas for one last crazy hurrah. Tagging along is Doug's strange soon-to-be brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). The four men arrive in Vegas, toast to Doug's upcoming nuptials and proceed to have a wild night that nobody can remember in the morning. The wicked hangovers are the least of their problems that morning, however: Stu, Phil and Alan have lost Doug. They can't find him anywhere, but they do find a variety of other things, like a lion in the bathroom and a baby in a closet of their hotel room. Bit by bit, the trio pieces together the events of the night and try desperately to find their friend. And we audience members know nothing more than they do, so we make all these discoveries right along with the bumbling, accident-prone gang. There's so much to like about this comedy, so
At first glance, it might seem like the whole "crazy bachelor weekend in Vegas that nobody can remember because it was so crazy" seems tired and played. But the thing is, these are schmoes, essentially. They're not slick or even particularly successful in their normal lives. For every scene in the movie that's full of bravado and slow-motion and thumping club tunes, there's a scene of Alan making a baby mime lewd gestures or there's a squawking chicken strutting past Stu's bleeding face.
The casting is what raises the movie to a whole level above what might otherwise be basically Douchebag Paradise. For once, Ed Helms is basically the straight man — he's stable and responsible and kind of spineless but not in an idiotic way. And Bradley Cooper's Phil is obnoxious and sleazy — traits that Cooper is remarkably good at pulling off — but not outlandishly so. I know guys like Stu and Phil. And establishing this reality with average, normal-ish guys allows for Galifianakis's Alan to really stand out — hilariously — as a total oddball living in his own little world. With this, Galifianakis does a phenomenal job. In an interview, director Todd Phillips mentions that he and Galifianakis developed the character of Alan together, and the character that emerged really plays to Galifianakis's strengths. This is true for each of the other cast members as well. It's a (somewhat rare) example of every single cast member doing what he does best, and then all coming together to form a powerful, cohesive group.
What's more, some of the situations in which they find themselves are not just "oh-so-kooky!" — they're downright weird and legitimately scary and these guys are so worn down by the stress of it all, they start to simply not care what happens to them. And to watch any relatively sane person deteriorate before our eyes, while awful in real life, is hilarious in the movies. Also lurking beneath the zaniness is a serious problem: Their friend is missing. It's possible he's dead. Though we know it's a comedy and we more or less assume Doug's OK, we don't know for sure, and the uneasy tension of this makes the humor (especially Alan's weirdness) all the more funny and relieving. For what's basically a story about guys being dumb, there's surprising substance and awesome character work. After enjoying the trailer, the movie really did deliver exactly what I wanted to see.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.