The High Countries

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The Hangover

Four friends prepare for a night like no other...

Four friends prepare for a night like no other...

Comedy Genius … With a Dash of the Party Juice

by Bryce VanKooten

I’d been expecting it. Hoped it would change the landscape of the corn-fed comedy, this one. The Hangover — director Todd Phillips’ (Old School) newest jaunt down the halls of adult adolescence — was sadly the script someone should have written long ago; the characters we’ve all known, loved, and hated and the coup de grâce to regurgitated frat boy humor.

Let’s get one thing straight: I haven’t laughed that hard in years.

About 15 years ago, I was told it was important to keep a tally of your favorite things in life: books, quotes, songs, films, etc:

  • Wish I Could Have Been IN It Moment: chariot-survival-kill-everyone-fight — Gladiator
  • Wish I Could Have Witnessed It: opening mafia, back room conversation — The Godfather.
  • Best Page in a Script, Ever: Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, in the cave, when they first see Gollum — Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Hardest I’ve Ever Laughed in a Theater, To Date: casino table scene — Rush Hour 2.
  • Most Terrified, Ever, On First Viewing: T-Rex-in-Ford-Explorer scene — Jurassic Park.
  • Movie I’ve Seen the Most Times: four-way tie (gotta be 30, at least) — Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Hook, 3 Ninjas, Old School.

So it’s only natural that The Hangover has to fall in that list somewhere. Maybe somewhere between Hardest Laughed, or Wish I Was There; maybe a new category all together: Most Outrageous on Screen – that has a nice ring to it.

The Hangover is a simple story. Four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party. The night ensues and they wake up to find a laundry list of shenanigans (the debris of such shenanigans all around them) as proof of their night of debauchery and clues they must use to find their best friend and missing man-to-be-married.

Its not 15 minutes in and we’ve had enough laughs — my face hurt, let’s be honest, here.

Our friend alcohol (and so much more, we soon find out) as our guide and new characters before our eyes, The Hangover proves to be a far cry from the pitiful repackaging of humor we’ve seen in Semi Pro, Forgetting Sarah Marshal (yeah, I said it), Step Brothers (I said it, too) and Harold and Kumar … whatever they do, blah, blah, the list goes on. If I had to put my finger on it, The Hangover is like a not-so-raunchy (until the end credits – yikes) Tropic Thunder. I’ll use TBS’ false tag-line here: …very funny.

There’s seldom a simple movie that reinvents the wheel. Tropic Thunder was anything but simple — just ask Mr. Stiller – and Old School was nearly 6 years ago, not that Old School was the Mona Lisa … you get my point. Its tough to tell a simple story and bring something new to the table, but The Hangover manages to do just that. But what’s the rub? I mean, how? I’ll tell you: new characters.

No one knows Zach Galifianakis (which is one of the larger tragedies on planet Earth*). Bradley Cooper is still either the yoked up muscleman in Wedding Crashers or the sensitive-no-wait-I-think-he’s-a-douche-bag from He’s Just Not That Into You, so we all haven’t come close to seeing enough of him. And not one person in the USA is sick of Ed Helms (The Office‘s Andy Bernard) whom Will Ferrell claims to be the funniest person he knows, making these three guys primed for comedic wonders. Throw in a masterful performance from the missing groom Doug (Justin Bartha) and we’ve got a movie on our hands. That was a lengthy thought/sentence(s), my apologies. More plainly, all four guys are fairly new to the big screen and all very funny.


Now, fast forward. I’m in my seat. I’m sitting next to my sister — once she gets laughing only gets me laughing worse and then it’s an avalanche of joyous tears from then on out – and we’re prepared for a raunchy ride of tastelessness and debauchery. To be frank … it was, but not nearly as bad as I thought it could be. Before we knew it, we were winding our way through a quasi-film noir of some kind, searching for clues and tripping up on every Chinese gangster (lame, I thought), washed up heavyweight champ and stray baby we could breast-feed. It was new. It was a mystery movie.

It was hysterical.

I don’t know that I can recommend The Hangover to just anyone. It’s not your mother’s cup of tea — unless your mom is a stripper, which, coincidentally has a place in this movie — but it is incredibly funny and surprisingly smart. Bottom line: sit down, enjoy some of the best comedy in years and don’t forget to stay through the end credits … if you can handle them.

That may have been the worst advice I’ve ever given you.

*If you’ve never seen “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis”, please watch. And watch here

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment