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The Best of 2009: 'The Hangover'

The Hangover


A surprisingly effective comedy that may be one of the more accurate depictions of Las Vegas I have seen. Most films about this city depict it as a glamorous, hip, sexy, overly shiny mountain of wealth. When you go beyond the Strip, you can also clearly see the cheap, tacky, awkward, overtly fake side of things as well. Of course, I can also find that on the Strip. The Hangover presents a combination of both, but leans more toward the latter thankfully.

Unlike most big Hollywood comedies, this film features no big stars, say for Heather Graham and Mike Tyson in an amusing cameo, so there are no big names to distract the audience from the story. This allows the comedy to seem a lot more authentic and less forced (a bit problem these days), and it works especially well since these fresh actors (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) seem to be bringing their own style of humor to the table. There are two other elements that are really impressive about this film. One, the format of these guys constantly falling into worse and worse situations as the story moves along is very reminiscent of a Saturday matinee serial. Most comedies stay in one location even if it is a car on the move, but here we constantly visit various locations in LV creating an illustrious journey for these three hungover guys. Two, the story is actually a pretty solid mystery. What happened to the groom? How did these guys get so messed up? Why in God's name is there a tiger in the bathroom (a nice nod to the leopard in the bathroom in 1938's Bringing Up Baby)? And why is Mike Tyson suddenly showing up in their hotel room?! Amazingly, all the questions are actually answered quite logically and the answer to the missing groom is not only clever, but stupidly and uproariously obvious.

The film's complimentary edge can be credited to its director Todd Phillips (Old School) who effectively does not back away from even the crudest of humor, and yet, somehow does not make it feel over-the-top. Every character's story arc is given a satisfying beginning, middle, and conclusion, and the film's witty writing does not push the audience's patience. Unquestionably, The Hangover is one of the best comedies of the year.