The story of boys getting into raunchy trouble at a friend’s Las Vegas bachelor party is about as old as sin city itself, but never has it been portrayed so haphazardly as in Todd Phillips’s The Hangover. The film aims to offend, gross-out, and perpetuate the myth of alcohol-induced male camaraderie. With strippers, a tiger, Mike Tyson, stereotypical Chinese gangsters and tons of cash to throw around, it seems the only thing Mr. Phillips forgot in this movie was a steady stream of laughs.
After a bang up night that no one can remember, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up sprawled about their Caesar’s suite, a baby in the closet, a tiger in the bathroom and a chicken wandering aimlessly around the place. Doug, the milquetoast groom played by Justin Bartha in whose honor the trio got so royally smashed, has gone missing. The plot of last evening unfurls piecemeal, with the three friends wandering the strip and the desert back and forth in search of their lost buddy.
Each of the leads has his own predictable character tweak. Bradley Cooper, as Phil, is the leader of the pack. Suave and cocksure, he is a grade school teacher who wouldn’t know actual trouble if it smacked him in the face, but that doesn’t stop him from looking for certain danger in the name of good times. Ed Helms fills out Stu, the mild mannered dentist whose girlfriend has his genitals on a tight leash. Then there is Alan. Zach Galifianakis throws everything he’s got at this awkward brother-in-law role. He is a man-child, a sleaze-bag and a damn good reason to plunk down money and see this film. Many of the film’s best laughs come from his inanity, My favorite was a joke regarding a certain sensitivity on airplanes in recent years.
In all honesty, this film has a lot of potential to succeed, but it is mostly held back by it’s cast of sidekicks. Mr. Cooper really needs to step up to the plate and be the ringleader of this posse, but he is never much afforded the opportunity. Perhaps he is too compassionate, perhaps he is too mean, but maybe he is just too, I don’t know, bleh is the best word I can think of. Try as he might, he cannot fill the shoes of a Vince Vaughn or a Matthew McConaughey.
Todd Phillips is notable for exploring the dark corners of male adolescent goofiness. His 2003 Old School is a touchstone film for taking the dumbest parts of masculinity and soberly deconstructing them with hilarious bits along the way. The Hangover doesn’t quite reach that level, but it isn’t all bad. There are a handful of grand laughs along the way, however they are sandwiched between a whole lot of B-roll and musical interludes. The point? There simply wasn’t enough meat on this bone for a feature. Maybe some more time in the oven would have made this steak well done. For now, it’s just half baked. (Hilarious aren’t I?)