On The Aisle
By Tony Macklin
“The Hangover” is a bumpy, raucous, raunchy road trip. It’s also pretty forgettable. A couple of Bufferin and you’ll be ready for the next comedy.
Why do movies about overindulgence have to be overindulgent?
I get a kick in the comic solar plexus from reviewers who call “The Hangover” and its ilk, “instant classics.” They must have seen only one or two movies in their meager critical careers. They certainly don’t know what “classic” is, and they don’t seem to know comedy. If something is supposed to be humorous, they laugh, like reflexive audience members, but intention is not execution.
“The Hangover” is nothing special. It’s a fair-to-middling bombardment of humor thrown against the wailing walls of Las Vegas. It misses as much as it hits. It’s the tale of four guys who drive from California to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They stay in a villa at Caesar’s Palace and the next morning in their spacious, elegant digs, they wake up to find a chicken, a tiger, a totally trashed villa and a baby. And the groom-to-be is missing.
They don’t remember what happened the night before though they have evidence that it was wild. They spend the rest of the movie looking for their lost chum.
The cast does not have much star power, which is both good and bad. At least we don’t have to witness Will Ferrell shrilly trying to carry a bad movie on his well-known shoulders or Adam Sandler mopily going one more time to his nearly empty bag of shtick.
Since the cast is third tier, it is a challenge to relate to their characters.
When you wouldn’t go to the local bar with these nonentities, going to Vegas seems very unlikely.
The writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, don’t help. These comic geniuses, who collaborated on “The Ghosts of Boyfriends Past,” left their wit at home. It doesn’t stay in Vegas. It never made the trip.
The actors struggle with their one-dimensional characters, but they become a little more interesting as the movie develops. Of course, they started at zero, so any dollop of personality is a plus.
Any movie that stars Bradley Cooper is not blinding in its stellar potency. Cooper’s claim to fame is that he appeared in 46 episodes of TV’s “Alias.” But at least Cooper (we graduated from the same high school in Philadelphia) is a personable actor.
His cohorts, Justin Bartha, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, are more of a motley crew, but they do grow on one a little bit. Like stubble.
Bartha, who plays the fiance Doug, is not given any of the panache that enlivened his performances as Riley Poole in the National Treasure movies.
Heather Graham appealingly plays the writers’ fantasy of a whore with a heart of gold.
Director Todd Phillips renders a spirited presentation of the wacky happenings. But he doesn’t have much control. He doesn’t seem to realize that one of the greatest assets a movie can have, especially a comedy, is discipline. He gets mired in his material.
The major problem with “The Hangover” is the uneven, self-indulgent writing. There isn’t a single comic scene that is sharply written. Some of it is simply off-key. The vulgarity of a wedding singer is really awful. Maybe it’s meant as satire, but they threw away any semblance of satire long before.
A character who is a short, gay, Asian hood is tired, not daring. He’s a product of lazy writing. There are occasional sly bits — an inside joke about one of Mike Tyson’s sexual preferences. But most of “The Hangover,” while supposedly being daring, is simply warmed-over crap. Vomit, masturbation, rectal examination, used condoms, all the old standards, are present. OK, we get it. Funny guys urinate.
The best comedy is keen, inventive, intelligent and imaginative. “The Hangover” is blunt in both senses of the word. It’s brash and it lacks creative sharpness. Seeing “The Hangover” is like playing a slot machine. It rings a lot, and pays off little.