Friday, June 5, 2009

The Hangover

Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Starring Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis, and Ed Helms

In the last ten years movie goers have been exposed to some pretty outrageous gags. In 1998 audiences saw "hair gel" dangle from Cameron Diaz's ear in There's Something About Mary. Last year audience got a full view of Jason Siegel's bits and pieces in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Between those two films there aren't many things we haven't seen attempted in the name of comedy. 

The Hangover directed by Todd Phillips doesn't offer up anything new (though there is a bit of full frontal male nudity) but it does serve as an example to prove a rule that I have concerning gross out or "blue humor." I believe that if you are going to try to shock your audience into laughter than you owe it to them to have a good story, good characters, and a reason for the humor. Though we saw semen in There's Something About Mary and Jason Siegel's penis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (that's what I meant by hair gel and bits and pieces in case there was any doubt) we also had genuine laughs coming from the characters and the stories of those two films. 

So while The Hangover has plenty of gross out humor there is also some talented actors delivering some pretty funny lines in a pretty standard  bachelor party gone awry story. The soon to be groom Doug, is treated to a night in Vegas by best friends Stu and Phil as well as Alan, his soon to be brother in law. Stu is in a relationship in which his girlfriend both cheats on him and beats him for being out of line. Phil is the alpha male of the group,  a married man, a school teacher, and is also a pretty big jerk. Alan has a great deal of  serious developmental problems but for the sake of this film is just a lovable idiot.  

The four friends kick off the night with a toast and then wake up the next morning without a single memory of the night before. All they know is that there is a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, and Doug is missing. The three remaining friends go on a journey to discover what happened to their friend by piecing together random clues. 

All the friends are pretty standard for a film about grown men acting like children but the actors fully commit to the characters, jokes, and situations. I do want to single out Justin Bartha who plays Doug. Doug needs to be such a great guy that he can bring three very different people into his circle of friendship. Doug is very charming but so is Phil. the difference is Doug is the kind of guy who is charming because he is genuine nice guy while Phil is charming because he wants things from people. Even though Phil is a jerk he is made likable by Bradley Cooper.

Director Todd Phillips also wrote and directed Old School (2003) which is about men stuck in life crisis. That film is one of my all time favorite comedies because all the jokes come from the a character and story. No matter how outrageous the humor was in that film it came from a source within the story.

What I like about Phillips is that he appears to approach his films as comedies. He definitely knows what is funny and how to apply it but he seems that he sets out to tell stories not jokes. He takes his characters through comedic situations and lets the comedy come from their reactions.  Also, he creates some fairly elegant and interesting camera movements. The opening shot of the three friends in the desert is a nicely composed shot. I have noticed that for a director that primarily works in comedies Phillips had found away to really put his mark on his films.

In the end I didn't love The Hangover because I have seen this story played out time and time again. It is very entertaining but frankly I was bored with the whole Bachelor Party gone wrong story. 

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