Danny Westhorpe, 23, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

• Film Reviews » The Hangover

“Some guys just can't handle Vegas.”

It's pretty remarkable that The Hangover's premise took so long to come about. With all the beer swinging American college kids and British binge drinkers that dominate the streets on an evening, a movie about remembering the events of the night before was always going to be popular. It would have been easy to throw together a film with a bunch of gorgeous women and outrageous antics that would appeal to anyone who's ever uttered the phrase “what happened last night?”. And in its simplest form, that's what The Hangover is. But if you scratch at the surface a little more you get a much broader film that draws in a bigger audience than those barely legally old enough to drink in the first place and as such was the surprise box-office hit of Summer 2009.

Director Todd Phillips is no stranger to the drunken comedy genre. Before The Hangover he enjoyed moderate success with gross-out comedies Road Trip and Old School. The Hangover though is bigger and better in every way. Plot, humour, casting and scripting have all shifted from acceptable to great making it a case of third time lucky for Phillipsm who's film went in with low expectations and yet managed to make over $400 million profit for a delighted Warner Bro's Studio.

The three leads put in a good shift as pals who stumble into something a little out of their comfort zone.
Ken Jeong is funny in most of his roles (intentionally or otherwise) and The Hangover is no exception.

Set in the glitzy world of Las Vegas, The Hangover stars Bradley Cooper (Phil), Ed Helms (Stu), Zach Galifianakis (Alan) and Justin Bartha (Doug) as four friends who head to the city of sin for Doug's final night of freedom as a single man. Armed with high expectation, they toast the night ahead and set out for a good time. Flash forward several hours to the next morning. Phil, Stu and Alan awake with crippling hangover's in a trashed hotel room. There's a tiger in the bathroom, a baby on the floor and a distinct lack of memories concerning last nights antics. Oh, and the grooms missing too. With the wedding looming, the trio don't have long to fix the mess they've created and make sure Doug lives happily ever after.

The casting is spot on with all three leads taking on stereotypical, but nonetheless funny, roles. Bradley Cooper is the “live fast, die young” laid back, cool guy. Ed Helms is the constantly worrying and usually scared dentist. And Zach Galifianakis the larger than life and twice as stupid tag-a-long. All three put in a decent shift and manage to pull off their friendship with a lot of believability. The humour is generated simply enough. The characters aren't clever or witty, their just ordinary guys in an extra-ordinary situation and their over-the-top actions and lines are therefore completely justified and all the more funny for it.

The support cast is small yet able and steal a handful of the funniest lines and moments for themselves. The beautiful Heather Graham plays a stripper called Jade while the always funny Ken Jeong is flamboyant gangster Chow. Mike Tyson also makes a surprise cameo as himself. Despite having limited screen time in comparison to the starring three, Graham, Jeong and Tyson work hard to justify their presence and make a worthy contribution to both the humour and plot-development.

As many Las Vegas films are, the setting is beautiful. Although it doesn't focus on the famous strip itself there are still a number of shots that capture the glamour of the city and make for worthwhile viewing in their own right. The editing is also particularly good with the action scenes well choreographed and getting the balance between fury and humour just right. Scenes involving animals (particularly the tiger) are stunningly realistic and convey a sense of real danger. With a modest budget in comparison to a lot of Hollywood films the production team have done a great job of making it stretch and no single area feels like it's been let down due to lack of budget or time-constraints (all the more impressive when you consider that principal shooting was wrapped up in just fifteen days).

It's almost impossible to pick a stand out scene because the comedy flows constantly from start to finish. Whereas a lot of comedy films start slow, introducing characters and setting the scene, The Hangover jumps straight into the action. Whether it's Alan getting fitted for a suit or Phil stealing money from his students, The Hangover grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go for the entire hour and a half.

Mike Tyson's appearance was a surprise, but a welcome one as he proves he can act a little as well as box.
"I want you to know, Doug, I'm a steel trap. Whatever happens tonight, I will never, ever, speak a word of it."

Although the film has a feel of slapstick eighties comedy about it, the soundtrack is hip, fresh and perfectly placed. Party songs by the likes of Kanye West, Flo Rida and Usher all add to the “big night out feel” while Who Let The Dogs Out by Baha Men and In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins are used in scenes where the music really compliments the humour. The best use of music in the film though, are the writers own creations sung by the cast. "Stu's Song" by Ed Helms has a real sense of desperation with just a slight hint of comedy about it and reminds the viewer of the gravity of the situation, while still providing laughs. In complete contrast "Three Best Friends" sang by Zack Galifianakis takes a slow scene and injects a mass amount of life into it. Few actors could pull of the zany song with such sincerity as Galifianakis manages.

One of the films huge drawbacks is the fact that the viewer gets to see very little of the wild ride that took place the night before. The film deals with the morning after, rather than the events that led to it which is a little bit of a let-down. Some comedy gold could have been so easily created if we'd followed the guys on their drunken party. But then would the film have had the same appeal? Would we have cared as much if we knew were the groom was, where the tiger had come from, and whose baby it was?

Despite waking up with the hangover and not attending the party, The Hangover is still a great comedy. The characters are all likeable and there's more laugh out loud moments in a single scene than most comedies can boast to contain in their entire run-time. If you go into this with a narrow mind and hopes of a romantic tale to rival The Notebook or epic adventure similar to Gladiator, you'll be left with an empty feeling inside. But if you start watching with a six-pack of beer expecting laughter from start to finish, The Hangover won't disappoint and should easily parachute itself into your favourite comedies list.

Copyright © Danny Westhorpe, 2015. All rights reserved.
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