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· 100 minutes
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
· Bradley Cooper
· Zach Galifinakis
· Ed Helms
· Justin Bartha
· Heather Graham
The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas has long been a tempting target for the movies. But, rarely has the ever so carefully un-wholesome Vegas mantra "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" been better explored than in the brilliant new comedy The Hangover. Directed by Old School's Todd Phillips, The Hangover is male arrested development and Vegas debauchery at its finest.
Four pals travel to sin city with plans to drink and gamble and be back home with a day to spare before one of them, Doug (justin Bartha) gets married. Those plans go out the window fast as a night of PG-13 debauchery takes an X-rated turn and the groom ends up missing.
The story picks up the day after the debauchery when Doug's pals Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Andy (Zach Galifianakis) awaken in their high roller suite to find a purloined tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and one missing groom. They remember nothing of the night before and have to piece the night together from available evidence.
A medical bracelet tells them they took a trip to the hospital. A valet claim card delivers the police cruiser they evidently stole and a photo tells them that Stu married to a complete stranger. The trip to the hospital, the cop shop and the chapel lead to more bizarre revelations as we follow on a debaucherous amateur detective story.
The story is inventive in the way it continues to spin the boys' behavior out into new and ever more outrageous action but what really sets The Hangover apart are the three actors at its center. Bradley Cooper plays the handsome ladies man as a wannabe bachelor bitter about having given up his freedom for marriage. His is the traditional lead in a comedy of this sort but Cooper gives the role an edge by blending into the ensemble and truly being one of the boys.
The Office co-star Helms is the nebbishy nerd with a harridan girlfriend (Rachel Harris) whose so henpecked he has to say he's in wine country instead of Vegas and has some real tap dancing to do when the trip is extended by another day. Helms gets the privelege of playing opposite the radiant Heather Graham as the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold who may be the key to him leaving his old life behind.
And then there is Zach Galifianakis. The enigmatic comic, known for making the great Steven Wright look cheery in comparison when on the stand up stage, is the break out star of summer 2009.
Roger Ebert fairly compares Galifianakis to John Belushi in Animal House. It's that iconic. Zach's Andy is a wealth of comic non-sequiters and manages to make a character generally played as a creep into a sweetheart of a manchild whose naive observations and physical carriage are parts of the funniest performance of the summer.
The Hangover is arguably the funniest movie of 2009. Destined to break out the pack thanks to it's absurd amount of laughs and slightly tweeked take on material that seems more familiar than it really is. It's essentially a road picture filled with human caricatures, recognizable types who should work through a mechanical plot to a rote end. Not the case here where the mechanics are twisted and turned in such surprising and hilarious ways.
This is one time where you will welcome a Hangover.