movie film review | chris tookey


© Warner Bros. - all rights reserved
  Hangover Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
6.95 /10
Phil Bradley Cooper , Stu Ed Helms
Full Cast >

Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

Released: 2009
Origin: US
Length: 100

The Hangover is 100 minutes of men behaving incredibly badly, shameless ethnic stereotyping, gratuitous violence and unattractive nudity. It’s also extremely inventive and entertaining, providing the most consistent source of laughter since Dodgeball.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

Rude, crude and defiantly male, it’s the ultimate phallocentric antidote to Sex and the City, and easily the funniest American comedy of the year.

The movie begins in a deliberately misleading, fragrantly feminine way with preparations for an elegant Californian wedding. But bride-to-be Tracy (Sasha Barrese) has a problem. She keeps asking variations on the question “Where is Doug?” Then she gets the answer. Well, kind of. His best friend Phil (Bradley Cooper, pictured centre) phones her from the Mojave Desert. He has a bleeding lip and three male companions, none of whom is Doug. He tells her they’ve lost her groom, and there’s no way the wedding is going to happen.

We flash back two days, to the start of a uniquely disastrous bachelor party. Doug (Justin Bartha) seems to be the most responsible member of the group, and promises his father-in-law that he won’t let anyone else drive the classic Mercedes convertible he’s borrowing for his bachelor trip to Las Vegas. Huh.

Then there’s Stu (Ed Hels, pictured right), a quiet, brow-beaten dentist who has assured his hectoring girlfriend (Rachael Harris, as a sort of transatlantic Polly Toynbee) that he’s off on a genteel, wine-tasting tour of the Napa valley. Cocky lounge-lizard of the trio is Phil, a married but discontented schoolteacher, who thinks nothing of stealing from his students to pay for the trip, and clearly doesn’t like children.

The fourth member of the quartet seems to like children a little too much. “I’m not supposed to be within 200 feet of a school,” he mumbles, “or a Chuckee Cheeze.” He’s the bride’s chubby, bearded brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis, pictured left) who is understandably friendless and dismayingly unpredictable. Doug has been told not to let him near alcohol or a gambling table, or presumably children. “You mean like a gremlin?” asks Phil. “He comes with instructions?”

This ill-assorted quartet checks in to an expensive suite at Caesar’s Palace, where Alan gives further hints that he may be dangerously stupid. “Is this the real Caesar’s Palace?” he asks the receptionist. “Did Caesar live here?”

Convening on the roof of the hotel, they toast “an evening we’ll never forget” with drinks poured by Alan. Uh-oh. Cut to the following morning, after a night none of them can remember. The hotel suite is trashed. Stu is minus a front tooth. Phil has a wrist tag, which suggests he’s been in hospital. There’s a chicken wandering through the debris, a crying baby in the wardrobe, and a tiger in the bathroom. Doug has disappeared, and when his father-in-law’s cherished Mercedes is brought for them it’s changed, ominously, into a police car.

Thus begins a comedic form of Saving Private Ryan, as the three of them try to track down poor, doomed Doug, and remember what happened when, and how on earth that tiger got into the bathroom. The answer to this conundrum turns out to involve Mike Tyson, who plays a slightly more articulate version of himself and reveals a memorably atrocious singing voice.

Nothing in the dismal previous output of these writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), or director Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School) would suggest they were capable of anything as entertaining as this. The delight of the script lies in its continual inventiveness and its frenetic pace. Just as you think things can’t get any worse, they do… and how. It’s as hilariously catastrophic as Gordon Brown attempting to reshuffle a cabinet.

But, despite the male characters’ glaring faults, they become likeable in their befuddlement, as they sink below a rising tide of anxiety, humiliation and panic. It’s all cleverly structured and there’s never a dull moment, even if they never do get round to explaining the chicken.

I could, I suppose, reprimand the movie for misogyny. The only appealing female character is that most tired of cliches, a tart with a heart, engagingly played by Heather Graham. And yes, ladies, she could be described as window-dressing.

But men don’t come out of the movie well, either, and the entire movie could be seen as a descent into the heart of masculine darkness. It’s like Apocalypse Now, but with Mike Tyson instead of Marlon Brando as a symbol of corrupted masculinity. Ultimately, men are portrayed as dangerously out of control if they don’t come to terms with their responsibilities to females and family. The happy ending comes only when they grow up.

The last ten years have thrown up – and I use the term advisedly – numerous movies that have explored the notion of masculinity in crisis. The most serious of these was Fight Club. The funniest by far is The Hangover.

Key to Symbols