The Hangover is the highestgrossing R-rated comedy of all time ($460m from a $35m budget).
Why? Because it’s an exercise in male wish-fulfilment that uses the recent Judd Apatow-propelled line in romcoms for guys to tap into a slightly more reconstructed take on blokey solidarity.
It’s funny – but not quite as much as it thinks it is. Doug ( Justin Bartha) is soon to be manacled in matrimony to girlfriend Tracy (Sasha Barrese). So his comically arrested homies – teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper), dentist Stu (Ed Helms) and stoner Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – haul him out to Vegas for the traditional blowout.
They pull up at Caesar’s Palace in a vintage Mercedes that belongs to Doug’s fiance’s dad (no foreseeable problems there, then) and check in to a typically palatial themed suite.
Cut to: the morning after. The room’s a teensy bit lived-in, there’s a baby in the wardrobe, Stu’s lost a tooth and gained a stripper wife, Phil is wearing a hospital bracelet… Oh, and the groom’s gone missing.
Old School/Starsky & Hutch director Todd Phillips works the retrace-and-repair premise deftly enough, but The Hangover often comes over as an eager but familiar checklist of sex, drugs and booze riffs that tickle in a stand-up routine kind of way.
Although the film has been universally praised for being “outrageous” and “gloriously distasteful”, its most off-colour references are restricted to a dated gag about Rohypnol and one or two flexes of misogyny surrounding Stu standing up to his girlfriend.
There’s also a sphincter-squeezing Mike Tyson cameo that tries to recast the convictedrapist boxer as a cuddly fella. (Although the behindthe- scenes take is worth a laugh, as Phillips’ efforts to direct Tyson’s action scene are met with, “The captain of the Jewish debating team is teaching me how to throw a punch!?”).
The Blu-ray package is mostly limp and overstretched, with a flabby extended cut of the film propping up a rack of off-cuts (shruggy blooper reel, extra-looong version of the ‘Best Friends’ song).
Still, the ‘Map Of Destruction’ featurette is an inventive twist on the Making Of doc, with the cast interviewed in and out of character, mapping out the real Vegas locations. It’s a how-to guide for any stag parties considering a Hangover-style trip. Phillips’ comedy profile is mounting – he’s about to direct Robert Downey Jr in the vaguely Sidewaysfeeling Due Date.
But The Hangover is only really “the funniest comedy of the year” because it’s arrived in a year where comedy is struggling to crunch into its post-Apatow gear.
Like most trips to Vegas, it’s a blast as it happens but not much more than a queasy memory in the morning.
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