Should I Watch..? The Hangover
What's the big deal?
The Hangover is a comedy film released in 2009 and is the first part of The Hangover trilogy. Co-produced and directed by Todd Phillips (who also directed the films Old School and Road Trip), the film focuses on three friends in Las Vegas trying to retrace their steps from a bachelor party the previous night where they somehow manage to lose the groom. It was a monster hit with audiences and critics, taking over $467 million worldwide to become the most successful R-rated comedy film since Beverly Hills Cop in 1984. It would also lead to two sequels in 2011 and 2013 but neither would be as well received by critics as the first film, although both films would still be financially successful.
What's it about?
As the wedding of Tracy and Doug approaches, Doug is being taken to Las Vegas by his friends Phil and Stu for a bachelor party. Worried that he might feel left out, Doug invites Tracy's socially-awkward brother Alan along as well - despite the fact that neither Stu or Phil particularly get on with him. After checking into their penthouse suite at Caesars Palace and enjoying a quick drink on the roof, the four of them head out for a night none of them will forget.
The next morning, the guys wake up in their room and survey the damage. The room has been trashed, there's a tiger in the bathroom, a crying baby in a cupboard and Doug is nowhere to be found. The remaining three aren't in much better shape either - Stu is missing a tooth, Alan's missing any of his clothes south of his waist and none of them can recall a single detail about the night before. Realising that they have to find Doug, they begin their efforts to retrace their steps at the hospital where Phil apparently spend some time last night...
Dr. Stu Price
Melissa, Stu's girlfriend
Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Release Date (UK)
12th June, 2009
What's to like?
Often, the simplest recipes are the best ones. The film keeps things simple with an amazing script and three leads who provide more laughs than you'd ever expect them to. The Hangover uses its brilliant set-up for maximum effect as our hapless heroes bumble across the city in deepening states of confusion. Cooper demonstrates why he was destined for bigger things as the self-styled leader of the group but the MVP is Galifianakis who excels as Alan. He is just magnificent and stakes a claim to become Hollywood's funniest actor for the next decade in one single performance. Helms is no mug when it comes to comedy and with the other two, the movie is a riot of humour from the start to the credits.
Phillips also knows how to handle a comedy (admittedly, low-brow ones) and he is on fine form in the director's chair. The movie is stacked full of surprises like Mike Tyson's wonderful cameo as himself and Jeong's bizarre appearance as camp Triad boss Mr Chow. What the film might lack in sophistication, it makes up for in its brutally efficient and effective way it continually hits its mark. I'm not normally a lover of bawdy comedies like this - any comedy which has to rely on two or more bodily functions, I almost instantly dismiss - but this is a glorious excuse for low-brow hijinks in Sin City.
- Lindsay Lohan was offered the role of Jade but turned it down, thinking the script was no good and the film would bomb. Lohan later admitted regretting that decision.
- The suite the characters stay in isn't real - it is modelled on two suites in the Forum Tower, a regular penthouse on the 68th floor and the so-called Rain Man suite on the floor above.
- Todd Phillips declined a salary from the studio to direct - instead, he received part ownership of the film itself. Due to the massive success it achieved, Phillips has described the movie as "his Star Wars" as his eventual payday mimicked that of George Lucas.
What's not to like?
The ending of the film felt a little too neat for me, given the debauched chaos of what went on before it. The only other thing I didn't like was that some side characters weren't given enough screen time - Heather Graham can't be in the picture for more than ten minutes while Jeong's screeching performance as Chow kinda takes over the latter half of the film so much that he becomes a recurring character in the following two sequels. The best supporting member of the cast is Tyson, though, who strides around the film with the confidence and swagger you'd expect. Crucially, unlike 95% of cameo appearances, he is actually funny.
The film doesn't spend too long showing us the glossy side of Las Vegas like Ocean's Eleven might but instead, takes us through the city's gaudy underbelly of cheap wedding chapels and abandoned car parks on the edge of the Nevada desert. Even its casino scenes seem to happen in an old-fashioned place away from the glitz and glamour of the Strip. Residents might feel their city is being underserved but for once, it's nice to see somewhere other than the usual tourist trappings.
Should I watch it?
Revelling in its own unique brand of comedic insanity, The Hangover is one film that is still very funny in spite of its low ambitions. For once, bad taste does not automatically lead to a bad film as this is as hilarious a film as I can recall - and it got even better after I went to Vegas in person a few years ago. Well written, brilliantly performed and only slightly tainted by undercooked sequels, The Hangover should be an obligatory watch for anyone thinking of throwing a bachelor party (or "stag do" as we call them over here) in Sin City and a warning to keep away from the Jägermeister.
Great For: grown ups, anyone looking for cheap laughs, people holidaying in Las Vegas
Not So Great For: residents of Las Vegas, teetotallers, Asian-Americans
What else should I watch?
So what of the two sequels? Well, The Hangover Part II was widely criticised for being a carbon-copy of the original as well as being darker, crueller and lacking the surprise and joy of the first film. The Hangover Part III was also a let-down but in a different way, almost dispensing with the comedic formula altogether in an attempt to become a standard chase thriller with the usual protagonists. Neither would ever hit the same high standards that The Hangover did so I would stick with the original.
Vegas is no stranger to the movies, of course. Elvis famously repaid back the city he made his home in Viva Las Vegas and Paul Verhoeven would go on to shoot possibly the most shameless and tackiest film in recent history, Showgirls. For a more classy affair, might I suggest the George Clooney-helmed remake of Ocean's Eleven which is far smoother, sexier and funnier than it has any right to be. Older viewers might even be interested in the Rat-Pack original Ocean's 11 for some traditional comedic crime capers.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox