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June 6, 2009
Review - " The Hangover "  - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Ed Helms with a chicken - The Hangover
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis - lying in the dirt - The Hangover
The Hangover - Elevator scene - Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis with Baby
The Hangover
directed by Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach
Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham,
Ken Jeong

In Todd Phillips' "The Hangover",  Zach
Galifianakis pronounces the word "retard" with
the accent on "tard," as if it were a French
seafood dish. It's a simple, fine-grained joke that
reminds us how the mechanism of comedy,
even of crude comedy, is delicate, like a teacup
- the division between what makes us laugh and
what doesn't is often just a hairline crack.

"The Hangover", in which a group of guys try to
piece together what actually happened at a
Vegas bachelor blowout so wild they can't
remember any of it, is crude, audacious, and a
laugh riot. Two days before his wedding, Doug and his three buddies drive to Vegas for a blow-out night they'll never forget
(or never remember). But when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning with pounding headaches, they can't
remember a thing. Their posh hotel suite is beyond trashed and the groom is nowhere to be found. With no clue of what
happened and little time to spare, the trio must attempt to retrace their bad decisions from the night before in order to figure
out where things went wrong and hopefully get Doug back to L.A. in time for his wedding. However, the more they begin to
uncover, the more they realize just how much trouble they're really in. It also fits squarely into the category of guy-friendship
comedies, which means it's about guys hanging out, drinking, swearing, messing around and sharing or not sharing their

And yet "The Hangover" is a cut above the typical contemporary guy-friendship comedy (even though some of these recent
comedies, like John Hamburg's "I Love You, Man," are quite good). Early in "The Hangover," we see some shots of a chic
wedding preparation and a fluttery, anxious bride. Then we see a bunch of guys in the desert. One of them, Bradley
Cooper's Phil, is making a phone call to said bride. He and his pals, one of whom is the bride's brother, have, um, lost the
groom. The rest of the movie details, in ass-backwards fashion, the efforts of Phil, a self-centered, impatient schoolteacher,
Stu (Ed Helms), a pussy-whipped straight-arrow dentist and Alan (Galifianakis), the bride's pudgy, not-quite-right brother, to
determine the exact coordinates of their friend Doug (Justin Bartha), the bridegroom. And to figure out how he got there.
"The Hangover" was directed by Todd
Phillips ("Road Trip"), who seems to have
found his footing again after missteps like
the drearily retrograde 2004 "Starsky &
Hutch."  And because it's always futile to
dissect a comedy to determine what makes
it work, I offer instead a few casual
snapshots from "The Hangover" that
represent the kind of careful, or
impetuous, choices that keep a comedy
clicking: one character's assertion that
counting cards isn't illegal but merely
frowned upon, "like masturbating on an
airplane"; a Holocaust joke that only makes
you fear it's going to be offensive; and a
single, aimlessly wandering chicken.
Phillips has a gift for the absurd, all right, but he's also smart about pacing: "The Hangover" is a shaggy-dog tale that's
actually, when you step back from it, perfectly shaped. "The Hangover" builds in us an increasingly squirrelly sense of
anxiety, a mounting certainty that none of this is going to turn out OK. (The fact that there's an anxious, even if largely
unseen, bride hovering in the background, wringing her hands over her missing bridegroom, doesn't help.)

"The Hangover" is a story told in multiple layers of details (a hospital wristband, a "borrowed" police car, a missing tooth)
that trigger massive nonrecollections in the heads of our befuddled heroes. Their ineptitude both endears them to us and
makes us a little nuts, but I can't imagine anyone walking out of "The Hangover" before they find out exactly how that tiger
got into the bathroom.

The performers navigate all this mishegas with surefooted grace: Cooper plays a character not much different from the
smirky, self-satisfied dude he usually plays, except this time, his character's smart-aleckiness is the source of wicked
laughs, he's a guy who thinks he knows all the answers and yet has no clue what's going on. Helms brings some low-key
sex appeal to a character that might normally be written off as just wishy-washy. Watch for the appearance of Ken Jeong
(aka Dr. Ken, who played the snippy gynecologist in "Knocked Up"), who makes a fashion statement out of black socks and
a single black boot. Also along for the noticeably well-shot raucous ride is Heather Graham as a sweetly disposed,
ummm..., dancer whom Helms has apparently married.

But Galifianakis, whose mischievously oblique humor, is the trampoline against which nearly every joke bounces. His Alan
is surly, temperamental, but also at times incredibly innocent, a wooly mamoth in a sloppy T-shirt. When he and the guys
check in at Caesar's Palace, he eyes the gaudy gilt surroundings warily. "Is this the real Caesar's Palace?" he asks the
desk clerk. She presses him, with visible impatience, to explain what he means. His eyes shift around nervously as he
frames the question: "Did Caesar live
here?" When he gets the answer, he
responds with the appropriate huffiness.
Why would Caesar, a man of taste and
discernment, want to live in such a tacky,
overpriced pile of crap? Alan knows a
fake palace when he sees it; his
ingenuousness, on the other hand, is the
real thing.

"Hangover" is sick, twisted and funny. This
is a movie where you WANT to stick
around for the credits. The beauty is that
you are totally set up for it, and you don't
mind one bit. That final sequence ties the
movie together in an awesome fashion
you wont have to walk out (Thank you