Many years and many viewings later, ‘The Hangover’ trilogy still stands as one of the finest comedy franchises in my eyes. The film which introduced one of my favourite comedy actors, Zach Galifianakis, into my life. A film which also catapulted Bradley Cooper into the spotlight; can you imagine a world without THAT performance in ‘American Sniper’? Or even ‘American Hustle’ for that matter? ‘The Hangover’ is part of an elite group of DVDs which are my go-to comedies, the failsafe for an entertaining night. Films which I know word for word, but can watch again and again with the same enthusiasm and laugh out loud enjoyment.
With the relatively quiet and placid Doug (Justin Bartha) about to get married, his two best friends and future brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) make the trip with him to Las Vegas – the City of Sin – to partake in some antics of the stag variety. What they didn’t count on, is Alan’s crazed attachment to his newfound wolf-pack and his affinity for illegal substances. So after a heavy night, the guys wake up with one hell of a hangover (I think that’s where they got the title from). Doug is missing, there’s a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the cupboard, so it’s time for Alan, Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) to work out exactly what they did last night and find their friend.
The undoubted star of the show is Galifianakis, who took the world by storm with his breakout performance as the impossibly mischievous, socially inept, more laugh at than laugh with, Alan. The man has an incredible knack for delivering perfectly his ridiculous dialogue and those little mannerisms and movements that are now trademark Galifianakis. Ed Helms offers great support as the hopelessly sensible doctor of dentistry with a hidden wild side, and Bradley Cooper brings his usual charm and charisma as the leader of the pack and idol to Alan. Justin Bartha has very little to do, as he’s missing for most of the film, but there is a fourth, much more hilarious member of the cast who deserves a mention. Ken Jeong is now synonymous with a character who is part of comedy folklore as the sassy, volatile Mr Chow.
When director Todd Phillips brought us ‘The Hangover’, he changed the game of modern comedy for good, reinventing the road trip and the ‘boys will be boys’ concept for the better. Before this, you try to push a film about four guys getting wasted and doing stupid shit, and I would tell you I’m not interested in your Seann William Scott comedy, thank you very much. This film however, defied every cliché and stigma attached to such a subgenre, with a combination of cleverly placed slapstick elements, silly putdowns and an amazing chemistry between its leading stars. Add to this, a musical score of hip-hop and R&B tunes from the likes of T.I and Kanye West, perfectly placed against the backdrop of the luminous Las Vegas strip and you get a shrewdly crafted masterpiece. Comedies, good or bad, are often guilty of neglecting a strong narrative in favour of cheap laughs; there is no evidence of such a crime here. ‘The Hangover’ has a surprisingly interesting and thrilling plot to offer a sturdy backbone to those cheap laughs we all secretly love.
A perfect start to an excellent trilogy of comedy films, ‘The Hangover’ is instantly endearing and will find a place amongst your favourite comedies. If it doesn’t, then me and you cannot be friends. It’s crazy, it’s fun and it’s absolutely hilarious from start to finish. And the trilogy just gets crazier from here on in. Enjoy!
DIRECTOR: TODD PHILLIPS
STARRING: ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, BRADLEY COOPER, ED HELMS, JUSTIN BARTHA, KEN JEONG