The Hangover


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

At the end of the last century, it seemed that comedy was entering a Renaissance. Several comedy films in that period combined characterization, plot, brains, and raunchy laughs. In the course of just two years (1998-99), moviegoers were able to see several great comedies like The Big Lebowski, There's Something About Mary, Rushmore, Office Space, and South Park. At least one of those (Lebowski) is clearly a contender for the greatest comedy ever made, and all five of them are distinctively original. After that spate of brilliant works, the comedic soil of the new millennium seemed to be seeded with promise. Unfortunately, that soil has not proved to be very fertile.

Most of the comedies of the current decade have been the usual guy stuff aimed at frat boys and/or nerds. The Coens lost their senses of humor; the Farrellys ran out of ideas; Parker and Stone concentrated on their TV show; and the comedy scene has degenerated into an endless 80s-fest of predictable and generic "raunchy coming of age" and  "slobs vs snobs" comedies. There have really only been three truly brilliant, original comedies in these ten years: Shaun of the Dead, Borat, and In Bruges. Maybe four if you count The Royal Tenenbaums. There have been some brilliant movies with funny elements, like Eternal Sunshine, Amelie, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but those are not pure comedies. There have been some very good cookie-cutter comedies with brilliant comic moments, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, Tropic Thunder, Dodgeball, Role Models, and several others, but we have not seen many examples of the kind of movie that really has something new to add to the genre.

Despite the outrageously high IMDb rating (8.5 as I write this), The Hangover is not one of those dazzlingly original films.

It is about four guys who go to Vegas for a bachelor party. Usual formula.

The groomsmen wake up on the morning after the party with such hangovers that they have no memory of the previous evening. As they get their bearings, they eventually realize they have misplaced something rather critical to the upcoming wedding - the groom. Given their  collective memory loss, it is no simple task to piece together what happened to their missing friend. Their only hope is to follow the clues available to them. One of them is wearing a hospital wristband. Another is missing a tooth. More significantly, they have a baby in their closet, a live tiger in their bedroom, a missing mattress, and an angry Mike Tyson sitting at their piano, singing a Phil Collins song. When they begin to follow the trail of evidence to places outside of their hotel, they try to retrieve their car from valet parking. The valet does not bring them their Mercedes convertible, but a police car.

And so on.

Even though this film journeys through familiar territory, two things make it work:

1. The Hangover is willing to push to the very edge of taste and even beyond. You can get a whiff of that from the set-up above, but there is much more. The film really has no boundaries at all. In fact, I can't even imagine how it managed to get an R rating. There is a scene in which a pedophile ("I can't go within 200 yards of a school ... or a Chuck E Cheese") is pretending to play with an infant's penis to amuse his friends. There are naked men everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and ages. There are lingering glances at a woman giving Zach Galifianakis a beejer - dick and all. I suppose it is a stunt dick, but if your kids see the scene, does it matter whether Mr. Happy is real or prosthetic? It looks the same either way. This is a seriously raunchy film.

2. The Hangover does much more with its formula than you have any right to expect if you go to films in which four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party. It spends a lot of time on characterization. It has an intricate and involving mystery or two at its core. And it has a bizarre, outrageous and hilarious performance from Zach Galifianakis as one of the four principals. Zach's character and his performance are so wacked-out that they make the entire film worthwhile and fill us with the goodwill necessary to overlook some of the duller adventures encountered by our lads on their way toward the groom's whereabouts.

Of course, one cannot give Galifianakis sole credit for the way his character turned out. There are writers who gave him those lines, and there was a director who realized that he was the ideal guy to deliver those lines. Still one can't help but note that the film would be nothing special without him. It's another take on "Dude, Where's My Car?"

And with him?

Well, as I already wrote, it's not one of those daringly fresh and brilliant comedies we have been waiting for since the unfulfilled promise of the late 90s. It falls into the "all other" line.

But it is absolutely in the front of that line. 


3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
3 James Berardinelli  (of 4 stars)
78 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
73 (of 100)





8.3 IMDB summary (of 10)
A Yahoo Movies





Box Office Mojo. An unexpected smash hit. As I write this it is about to become the #1 R-rated comedy of all time.




  • Heather Graham exposes one breast.
  • There are some topless strippers in the raunchy  closing credits sequence.
  • Lots of male nudity.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


First-rate genre fare, but don't take the kids. The rating should have been NC-17.