I have two rules in life. Okay, wait, scratch that. I have more than two rules. I have lots of rules. Stuff like “only kick cats if I see them using my sandbox for a bathroom,” or “sugar-free Red Bull makes even the saddest of days bright,” or “white bread, bologna and lots of mayo is always a good idea” and “it’s okay to not shower on Saturdays and spend the entire day playing Guitar Hero on the XBOX 360.” That said, for the sake of brevity and for this review, I want to tell you about two really important Andy laws.
The first is pretty simple: Screenings of irreverent, arguably tasteless dude comedies full of potty talk and extreme behavior are reserved for “man nights” only. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a man night, this is when the gents get together to eat junk, burp, pass copious amounts of gas and view any and all televised sports, play video games and watch “guy movies.” No ladies are ever allowed and bringing one brands you as a whipped traitor to the establishment of Manland.
My last rule is more serious and actually is more of a question. Why, in the name of all that is good and decent, would any person bring their child – specifically a kid under 10 years of age – to a movie that is rated R? Not only R rated, but one that is rated R for “pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.” I’ll tell you the answer: Because you are an idiot. I’m no prude, but exposing your child to adult content is nothing short of abuse. Period. End of story.
So there you have it. Three paragraphs into my review and you know “The Hangover” isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s directed by Todd Phillips, who scored a surprise hit with “Old School” (2003) and then took a drive down mediocre street with “Starsky & Hutch” (2004) and “School for Scoundrels (2006). “The Hangover” is a return to form for Phillips, as I think his last two movies revealed to him the gap between PG-13 and R rated comedy, while littered with double entendres and innuendo, is pretty wide. Phillips twisted stories are best suited for an unrestrained paint palette, and that’s just what you get with “The Hangover” – a fast-paced, massively uncensored trip to Vegas with four ordinary fellows with a penchant for salty, unsavory behavior.
Doug (Justin Bartha), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are the dudes in question, all middle-aged men with issues and problems, heading to Las Vegas to celebrate Doug’s impending marriage to Tracy (Sasha Barrese) in two day’s time. We learn a lot about the crew on their drive from Los Angeles to Sin City. We see Doug is a good-natured guy and appears to be the peacemaker of the foursome, while Phil is more of the opinionated instigator, accepting of crazy behavior, but not of dumb decision-making, something he pins on Phil the entire movie. Poor Phil is dating the spawn of Satan, as far as girlfriend’s go. She’s controlling and abusive, so much so that Phil has to lie about their trip, telling her the group is going to Napa Valley for a wine tasting excursion. And Alan, Doug’s soon-to-be brother-in-law is a happy go-lucky airhead, and possible sex offender, with the a striking beard that is nothing short of glorious and amazing.
Shots of Jägermeister and several roofies (the date rape drug), along with copious amounts of other alcohol, render the events of Vegas a literal haze. The next morning Stu is missing a tooth, Alan has no pants and discovers a tiger in the bathroom, and Doug is missing. Not only that, but there is a baby in the room and the group’s Mercedes convertible, one belonging to Doug’s father-in-law, has been replaced by a Las Vegas Police squad car. Phil, Alan and Stu, a little worried that Doug could be lying dead somewhere, begin to recount their steps and collect clues about what happened in Vegas.
Many of the movies hilarious bits explode on the screen during the search for Doug, but this is where the movie stumbles a little bit, becoming a point A to point B backlot tour of decadent gags and extreme character encounters. That’s okay I suppose, but anytime a movie is primarily powered by “wouldn’t it be funny if” the potential for yawns and been-there-done-that boredom is high. And sadly, I got a little worn out toward the end. It’s the classic running out-of-steam and failing to out-top the previous hilarity that costs “The Hangover” an extra star. And honestly, that’s too bad, because the most funny parts of “The Hangover” are the portions vested in some unspeakable truth, something we all know is true but that we’d never repeat in polite company.