Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Hangover

I don't think it's much of a stretch to say this is Todd Phillips' best film, as he's always done acceptably fun comedy, but this seems unique among his work and just a bit better. Not a great movie, but pretty damn funny once it gets the ball rolling. The key to all of it really is Zach Galifianakis, who steals every scene the same way that Steve Carell stole them in Anchorman, and hopefully it will be a similar boon to his career. I get plenty of enjoyment out of his stand-up and cult TV appearances, but any extra Zach I can get is good. His character is pretty unusual here, and hard to classify. He's fully functional but definitely off in a significant way, having lots of strange tendencies like an aversion to profanity and an urge to imitate those he likes, and often makes really terrible decisions, though he manages to mostly redeem himself. I think this is the biggest role I've seen for Ed Helms too, again playing a guy who just can't see how badly his girlfriend is treating him, and his character is a nice balance of uptight and humorously incredulous. I really don't know much about Bradley Cooper, but I liked him in this movie too, playing the most emotionally stable one who still has some definite issues.

The movie's biggest problem might be that it takes too long to get really cooking. I don't know where the additions were made in the unrated cut, but I assume they're mostly after the forgotten night in Vegas that the plot centers around, and in any case they spend too much time establishing things before the main characters wake up in a trashed hotel room completely oblivious to what happened in the previous 12 hours. It's nearly half an hour before we get there, and I understand the desire to make the relationship between the three leads and the missing Doug clear so we know why it's so important they find him, though that was already pretty set from the fact that he was getting married and they were the ones throwing him a bachelor party. I wouldn't have minded the long lead-in so much if it itself was funny, but I really didn't laugh much at all until after things went wrong. Once that's all taken care of though, things move briskly as they try to puzzle out what they can remember and figure out from clues to solve various mysteries like the presence of an infant and tiger in their room and eventually track down their missing friend. There are some good appearances by various funny guys like Rob Riggle and Ken Jeong, and Heather Graham is fine in her part but you wonder why they got someone as famous as her to do it, unless that was the point. The denouement was similarly a bit too lengthy for my tastes, but overall it was a pretty strongly crafted pure comedy, one of the better I've seen in some time. It mostly worked because I liked all the characters, and it was nice for once that they weren't played by Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, and Owen Wilson. I don't hate any of those guys, but keeping things fresh is always good.

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