Yeah, yeah, yeah … the hype I had heard for The Hangover had intrigued me. I kept wanting to see it – but deus ex machina prevented me. But FINALLY, the chance to watch arrived on my doorstep. Many comedies come with hype – hell, by the time I squeezed into a crowded theater to watch it, Borat was damn near a requirement of citizenship. The Hangover could have been a true disappointment like Wedding Crashers or the curiously overrated Old School. Fortunately, it is more along the lines of Borat itself – ultimately a pretty darn good comedy – but not at the Superbad, A Fish Called Wanda, Kingpin sort of rarified air.
The movie starts with some desperate guys in the middle of the Mojave desert, and a bride on the other end of the phone worried that her fiance will not make their wedding on time. And then we hurtle back to the flashback that takes up most of the movie. As everybody knows by now, the guys are of course a bachelor party group. There is Doug, the groom, Phil, a teacher with a somewhat normal home life, Stu, who seems like a spineless loser, and Allan, Doug’s future brother in law. Allan, played by Zach Galifinakis – he of the awkward, quasi-brilliant “Between Two Ferns” series at FunnyorDie.com – is a memorable comic creation. With a full on lumberjack beard, weird oblique references to a weird sordid past, and some weird ways of making friends, Allan is a character from another dimension. When he asks the woman behind the counter at Caesar’s Palace whether Caesar actually stayed there – one gets the sense he was looking for actual clarification.
Anyway, the party goes to Vegas, and then the night goes horribly awry, with everyone waking up with no memory of the previous night, a tiger in the bathroom, a chicken the movie never gets around to explaining, and the groom missing. The lion’s share of the movie then takes place as the venerable threesome try to put the details of the evening back together. In a sense, this becomes your classic American road picture. We get a lot of eccentrics. including a stripper played by Heather Graham – which was nice since I did not realize she was alive. We get Mike Tyson being Mike Tyson in a way only he can, and we get some very angry Chinese gangsters – for reasons it takes a while to iron out. All of this is very funny, and the movie has fun with Allan’s weirdness and Stu’s attempts to convince his girlfriend that he is really at Napa Valley.
Ultimately, as with any comedy, the question is: did I laugh? And indeed, I did. That said the movie does lack some qualities for staying power. There is not much social commentary, which is neither here nor there, but the characters and situation are a little less plausible than they could be. The movie is funny, but it lacks heart. Allan would be a loveable loser in other movies, but he seems just weird here. The guys are funny, but they do not elicit empathy like the protagonists of Superbad do. However, none of these are reasons to not rent it.