short movie review

The Hangover (2009)

Directed by Todd Phillips. Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, and Heather Graham.

I enjoyed this comedy, which lived up to the expectations of word of mouth and its sustained box office appeal during this crowded peak of the summer movie season. There are many reasons to like it, concocted as it is of strings of witty moments building to larger comic situations. Its main strength is a fresh, intelligent script that has the benefit of being original; secondarily, its characters (each very well cast) are all likeable and intelligent, although we happen to catch them on a very stupid weekend.

One thing I particularly thought was fun about it was that it had a premise and plot something like an IF game. Three guys wake up in a hotel room filled with peculiar objects and animals and a sense of a lot having gone on, but no memory of the last 14 hours whatsoever. Everything is either a puzzle or a clue to a puzzle, and the dudes set about trying to figure out where everything that’s missing (including one of their friends) is hiding, and where everything that shouldn’t be there really belongs. They also have an overriding goal of some urgency: getting to a wedding on time the following day, with the groom intact. The groom is the guy that’s missing, of course. By the end of the movie, all the puzzles are solved, and the ones that aren’t are explained outrageously in a montage that roll during the end credits, almost like an Easter Egg.

The gist of the set-up is that the groom is taking his two best friends and his brother-in-law-to-be to Las Vegas for a debauching bachelor party weekend. We see all four of them take a celebratory starting shot of Jaegermeister, and the next thing we or they know, it’s the hangover morning.

This movie stayed with me in my head for a day or two after I saw it, like the way a catchy song does. I wanted to replay fun moments from it to enjoy them all over again. No doubt the movie is fun to see a second time, which explains some of its box office legs.

When I got analytical about the script, there were a few nit-picks I came up with, but they’re really minor and far between. Some of my grumbles were when I wished the movie had reached a little farther for a truthful moment, rather than falling just short of it; it’s an odd complaint, but so many of the enjoyable moments in the film are because the movie is riffing off of reactions that seem to ring true. It tends to let actions and dialogue grow out of the characters naturally, and keeps them grounded as human beings reacting to extraordinarily demented situations. Overall, a very smart script that’s well executed. It should probably, in some just world, be nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Hmm. Actually, they never do explain the chicken, do they?

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