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The Hangover
Jul 09, 2009 07:02 PM 2996 Views
(Updated Jul 10, 2009 11:52 AM)





It's not an uncommon experience. You indulge a little too much, you do some things you really shouldn't, you get a little wild. And afterward you feel a little guilty. You've been bad, and the hangover is the evidence.

In the new comedy "The Hangover, " however, that's the only evidence three friends have when they wake up hurting the morning after a Vegas bachelor party. Their heads are splitting. Their room is trashed.

And, um, the groom is missing.

Every summer needs at least one silly, dirty comedy, but "The Hangover" may end up being one of the few to actually get the mix right.

It's a bit of a surprise considering that the screenwriters' past work includes "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" and "Four Christmases" -nobody's favorite recent comedies. The characters here - schnook, smart-mouth and madman - aren't much more than types.

Give credit to director Todd Phillips, perhaps, as the film's basic pleasure - watching grown men on a getaway acting like idiots - owes something to his "Road Trip" and "Old School." The physical comedy is furious, and the pace dizzying. And the surreal is never far off, like the wonderful sight of that trashed hotel room, a panorama inventive enough to include a singed armchair, a blow-up doll floating in the Jacuzzi and a live chicken. Phillips is smart enough not to explain any of it.

As the three friends - shy Ed Helms, cocky Bradley Cooper and the quite unhinged Zach Galifianakis - go searching for the mild, missing Justin Bartha, things go from bad to worse to weird.

There's a pair of sadistic cops, for example; an Asian street gang;a few Vegas legends; a ferocious wild animal; an abandoned baby, and a very wrecked Benz. Also a "Rain Man" moment.(Oh, and lots of vomiting, too - the latest movie trend continues.)

But, unlike most dirty jokes, "The Hangover" pays at least as much attention to the joke as to the dirt. It also boasts a winning performance by Helms, as the way-out-of-his-party-league friend, and a beautifully bizarre one by Galifianakis as the certifiable brother-in-law.

Bradley Cooper is less engaging as the arrogant alpha male. And less attractive, too, frankly, is the movie's view of women.

Yes, this is very much a guy comedy, tailor-made for beery bonding.But so are Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow movies, and while they insist on having princesses fall for their frogs, at least they're willing to admit there are princesses out there - and ones worth pursuing.

There isn't a single full female character in "The Hangover." The bride-to-be is a plot device. Helms' fiancee is a brittle banshee. The only other women in the film are little more than jiggling, giggling set decoration(smiling happily when Cooper shouts out "Nice rack!"through a megaphone).

Well, okay, there is one sympathetic female character. But she's a stripper and a prosti*tues, unbelievably unspoiled and not terribly bright. This is the film's ideal woman? The screenwriters' view of the opposite sex seems poised somewhere between Miss May and Miss Ogyny.

Then again, you don't listen to farmer's-daughter jokes in hopes of picking up tips on agriculture; you shouldn't go to something like "The Hangover" expecting a liberated comedy. What you should expect is an hour-and-a-half of painful slapstick, crude talk and broad humor that continues right up until - and then through - the final credits.And that will send you out of the theater laughing. A little guiltily, perhaps - the movie comes with its own rueful hangover -but laughing nonetheless.

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