If there’s a film that will be sold on word of mouth alone this summer, it’s The Hangover. With a funny but unspectacular trailer, a plot (guys go to Vegas for bachelor party and crazy shit happens) that seems overly familiar, and stars who are relative unknowns there’s nothing to suggest anything hugely promising. But those who have seen it can surely testify that it’s a 24-carat piece of comedy gold, for once you can believe the marketing moguls…we have been graced by the sleeper comedy hit of the summer. On closer inspection it shouldn’t actually have been that surprising, Todd Phillips occupies the director’s chair and his previous output includes such hits as Road Trip, Old School and Starsky and Hutch. ‘The Hangover’ though easily surpasses those by merit of providing regular and consistent laughs amidst backdrop of a frenetic and unrelenting morning after.
The problems most comedies face are that they have to put all their best laughs in the trailer, so by the time the film comes around the funniest parts lose their impact and the rest of the film is disappointing in comparison. This is a problem The Hangover sidesteps masterfully. Yes we know they wake up with no memory of what went before; there’s a baby, a tiger, a chicken, a missing tooth, someone’s married a hooker and (in an unsurprisingly bizarre cameo) Mike Tyson turns up…but these moments, albeit hilarious, aren’t what make the film tick. The heart of the film is in the chemistry between the three leads; Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are likable and identifiable enough for an audience to go along with events that could quite easily in another context seem ridiculous. Alan in particular is a character that could really grind your gears if he turned up in certain films, as part of the affable trio however he grows on you immensely.
This success may partly be credited to casting unfamiliar faces but the actors themselves deserve huge credit. Cooper may already be slightly familiar to some and is undoubtedly a star in the making (having been cast this week as Faceman in the new A Team flick), Helms is best known for his stint in the US version of the office, Galifianakis though has come completely out of the blue and it wouldn’t be at all a surprise to see him follow a career path similar to Seth Rogen’s post Knocked Up. The missing groom Doug (Justin Bartha) also deserves an honourable mention for slotting effortlessly into the group when around, it’s a shame the plot requires him to go missing for the most part. There’s also perfectly pitched cameos for Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong and best of all Rachael Harris who is magnificently vile as the hapless Stu’s wife.
Phillips has no qualms puts his characters through the wringer, there’s one shocking revelation after another as the people, animals and events they encountered the night before come back to bite them on the ass during the search for Doug. As the audience know as little as the characters do the reactions ring true, they suspend disbelief as colossally silly events are only matched in magnitude by the sound of laughs in the theatre. The Hangover never quite lets up – the laughs even continue way into the credits – so it should come as no surprise that a sequel is already being planned. Having come up with something so fresh here the producers will have to be careful not to suffer from a hangover themselves the second time around.
Verdict: Brilliant chemistry and a few plot tweaks make The Hangover better than you could possibly be expecting going in. It’s funny from start to finish and is guaranteed to have you leaving the cinema with a smile on your face.