D: Todd Phillips. DP: Lawrence Sher. W: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore. Starring: Bradley Cooper/Ed Helms/Zach Galifianakis/Justin Bartha/Heather Graham/Mike Tyson/Sasha Barrese/Rachel Harris/Jeffrey Tambor.
If you are just tuning in, as they say, or just waking up or maybe you’ve been trying, as I have, to ignore the obsessive American wedding culture, I regret to inform you that it is here to stay. Yes, not only has the cinema relinquished any struggle to portray marital bliss or misery, it has now been swiftly incorporated into bromance and “adult humor” (that’s a silly label) films.
Since 2005’s Wedding Crashers was such a financial summer success, there has been an even more fervent stream of wedding orientated films. Some we must endeavor to forget; 2005’s Maid of Honor, 2007’s License to Wed, 2008’s 27 Dresses and most recently this year’s Bride Wars. But what most of these films inherently lacked was the testosterone seeped perspective that Wedding Crashers thrived on. Earlier this year I Love You, Man broke into the male friendship culture with a film essentially about bromance and it happened to have a wedding subtext. So with The Hangover, we have gotten our first comparable competitor/follow-up to the Wilson and Vaughn adventure. However, guffaws are still to be desired.
The Hangover cleverly allows four very different kinds of fellows to buckle up, drive to Vegas and have the ultimate bachelor party night. So ultimate in fact that the next morning the groom cannot be found and their expensive villa hotel room is in shambles (complete with live animals and an eventual Mike Tyson cameo). And now the film begins. As the three stooges; pretty boy Phil (Cooper), resident weirdo Alan (Galifianakis) and repressed dentist Stu (Helms) attempt to piece together their evening of escapades. A night that we only learn about in pieces.
The structure of the film is solid as the audience does not experience the night with the boys, but rather is just as clueless as to what transpired when and at what point groom-to-be Doug (Bartha) was misplaced. This gives the film necessary momentum as the jokes and the physical comedy are there, but there is just not enough of it. Especially as the hours go by and the wedding looms closer the trio, having experienced such random violence and weirdness, seem to be more concerned with the vital signs of their friend rather than his impending nuptials. This undertone, though subtle, almost makes you wonder if their night was worth it?
What is worth it is the obvious chemistry the actors have with each other. Not suprising as they, with crew in tow, probably experienced plenty of the Vegas nightlife while filming. It is seemlessly paired with decent shooting and clever visual puns and props that allow the film moments to shine. However, moments do not make a film or, frankly, generate enough laughter to sustain a comedy. And that’s all The Hangover really will give you, a couple of cheap shots, a moment of bad karoake amongsts friends and a little bit of a sense that the night wasn’t really that great. But hey, at least you’ll remember this one.