Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/26/09 w/ Additional Edits.
Already known for such comedy hits such as Old School and a film version of the hit 70s cop show Starsky & Hutch. Todd Phillips is one of the new breed of comedy directors who delves into the world of raunchy humor. 2006's Schools for Scoundrels with Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder wasn't a hit film with audiences or critics that put a dent of Phillips' streak of hit comedies that began with 2000's Road Trip. In 2009, Phillips rebounded in a big way with what turned out to be the biggest hit comedy of that year about a group of guys trying to figure what happened one night in Las Vegas through a slew of mayhem entitled The Hangover.
Directed by Todd Phillips and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore with un-credited rewrites from Phillips and Jeremy Garelick. The Hangover tells the story of four guys going to Las Vegas to celebrate a man's upcoming wedding. The next day, three of the men are hung-over as they find a tiger in their bathroom suite, a baby, and memory loss as the groom is missing. Meanwhile, they encounter a stripper, a gang of Chinese gangsters, and other strange occurrences in a crazy weekend. Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Baresse, Rachael Harris, Ken Jeong, Mike Epps, and Jeffrey Tambor. The Hangover is a witty film that doesn't reach a lot of laughs despite an excellent concept.
Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to get married his longtime girlfriend Tracy (Sasha Baresse) as he decides to go out on a weekend to Las Vegas. Joining him is Tracy's socially-awkward brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who is excited to go on the trip. Even as he will be taking the vintage Mercedes owned by Alan's father (Jeffrey Tambor). Joining them on the trip to Vegas is Doug's friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms). Phil hopes from a break from his family life and work as a schoolteacher while Stu plans to propose to his longtime but very strict girlfriend Melissa (Rachael Harris). Arriving into Vegas where they stay at a luxurious suite, everyone is having a good time as they drink a shot of alcohol on the roof of the hotel they're staying.
The next morning, no one knows exactly what happens as Alan finds a tiger at a bathroom along with a baby in the closet, a hospital bracelet in Phil's wrists, and Stu missing a tooth. Doug is also missing as they also learn that they had stolen a police car that the valet gave them as they go to the hospital where they have traces of roofies in their blood stream. Learning that they were at a wedding that crazy night where Stu learns he has married a stripper named Jade (Heather Graham), they go to a wedding chapel where they encounter a couple of Asian gangsters shooting and beating up the police car. After finding Jade at her apartment where she's revealed to be the mother of the baby. They are suddenly caught by a couple of police officers (Rob Riggle & Cleo King) who are the original drives of the police car.
After taking part in a police exercise in exchange for their freedom, they also got back the Mercedes where on their way back to the hotel. They find someone in the trunk as it's revealed to be a naked Asian man (Ken Jeong) who beats them up as their day gets worse as Alan reveals the source of where he got the roofies thinking it was ecstacy. Returning to their hotel room, they get a surprise visit from Mike Tyson who was looking for his stolen tiger demanding that they give it back to him. Returning the tiger to Tyson proved to be troubling as they tried to drug the tiger only to wake up at the Mercedes while Tyson reveals the tape of what happened that night. After getting attacked by Asian gangsters that was led by the naked man who is named Leslie Chow. Chow demands $80,000 that he was owed or else Doug will be killed. With Doug's life in the hands of Chow, it's up to Alan's knowledge of card-counting to help them get the money with help from Jade as they succeed but end up with a surprise of their own as they wondered what the hell went wrong.
The story about three guys trying to find their friend while figuring out what the hell happened on a night they don't remember at all is definitely a great idea for a comedy. The problem is that it doesn't entirely work in its execution. There's some moments that are humorous and engaging to watch while the script is well-structured in its set-up. It's just that the script doesn't set-up the comedy as well as it should've been. There's time where the audience knows what will happen and it's not executed in a great way. At the same time, director Todd Phillips goes for moments of raunchy humor but it doesn't really hold itself together as a film. The better moments of Phillips' direction is when there's a surprise cameo from Mike Tyson that is funny along with scenes where Phil, Alan, and Stu are just trying to figure out what's going on in such a subtle presentation. Despite a lot of its flaws and shortcomings, Phillips does create a film that is watchable and engaging in its premise.
Cinematographer Lawrence Sher does nice work with the colorful look of the film, notably the nighttime flashy exterior of Las Vegas including some dark colors for the interior scenes at the home of Mike Tyson. Editor Debra Neil-Fisher does fine work with the editing in creating fast-paced moments to keep the film going along with the comedic moments while it's mostly leisurely paced for the most part. Production designer Bill Brzeski with set decorator Danielle Berman and art directors Andrew Max Cahn & A. Todd Holland do some good work in the look of the suite that the guys stay along with the look of the wedding chapel that they go to. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach is also good for the dresses that Jade wears and the casual clothes that the men wear. Sound designer Tim Chau does some fine work in the sound for some of the film's action-like sequences and location scenes.
The music by Christophe Beck is pretty good for its funk-keyboard style and comical musical sequences. Yet, the film's soundtrack is mostly filled with party songs and such from the likes of the Baha Men, Phil Collins (with singing by Mike Tyson), Wolfmother, Usher, Kanye West, T.I. & Rhianna, the Donnas, the Belle Stars doing Iko Iko in a funny reference to Rain Man, Danzig, and members of the cast singing their own original songs which are quite funny. Another notable soundtrack regular of Todd Phillips work is the Dan Band performing raunchy version of some 80s classics.
The casting by Juel Bestrop and Seth Yanklewitz is pretty good with some cameo appearances from Wayne Newton, Carrot Top, and most of all, Mike Tyson as himself in a very funny performance. Small roles like director Todd Phillips as a creepy guy in the elevator, Ian Anthony Dale and Michael Li as Chow's henchman, Mike Epps as an inept drug dealer, Bryan Callen as a wedding chapel owner, Sasha Baresse as Doug's fiancee, Matt Walsh as a doctor, and Jeffrey Tambor as Alan's dad are pretty good. Rachael Harris is intense as Stu's girlfriend Melissa though she doesn't have much to work with. Cleo King and Rob Riggle are funny as two angry cops who decides to abuse Stu, Phil, and Alan in front of kids at the expense of their amusement. Ken Jeong is kind of funny as an effeminate Chinese gangster in Leslie Chow that Jeong does go overboard with his performance at times.
In a role that was originally slated for Lindsay Lohan, Heather Graham is pretty good as Jade. A stripper with a heart of gold who helps the guys win money while helping Stu loosen up. Justin Bartha is decent as Doug, the groom who goes missing though he doesn't get much to do but be calm and then disappear throughout most of the film. Ed Helms is also good as the straight-man of the group in Stu, a man fearful of his girlfriend's anger as he loses a tooth and deal with the fact that he has to grow some guts in order to be a man. Bradley Cooper is excellent as Phil, a man wanting some freedom from his stressful family life as Cooper plays it straight for the most part of the film while saying some funny lines. Zach Galifianakis is alright as Alan, Doug's soon-to-be brother-in-law who is socially awkward as he tries to fit in where Galifianakis provides some funny moments. Mostly without pants.
While The Hangover doesn't have some of the off-kilter humor of Todd Phillips' previous films, it is still a decent comedy from the director with a good cast and premise. Fans of raunchy comedy will definitely enjoy this in what has definitely been a very down year for comedies. For anyone that wants something wild and fun to watch, The Hangover is the film to go see. Audiences with a much broader idea of comedy might best go for something else.
(C) thevoid99 2011