2009 // USA // Todd Phillips // December 24, 2009 // DVD - Warner Brothers (2009)
B- - Although hardly the Second Coming of raunchy comedies that the hype suggested, The Hangover establishes that the "lost night" high concept can work when executed with sufficiently nasty enthusiasm and held aloft by a cast willing to fritter around in its weirder crannies. Call it Dude, Where's the Groom? Director Phillips and writers John Lucas and Scott Moore at least understand the appeal of their pseudo-detective story conceit. They maintain the focus on delivering unexpected gags right to the end, at which juncture nearly every plot point clicks into place. (Very, dare I say, Shakespearean, that.) Frequently, the laughs the films coaxes are guffaws of sheer disbelief, whether from a teacher swiping kids' field trip money for the casino tables, or a naked Chinese gangster popping out of a car trunk. The cast keeps things afloat, especially Ed Helms in clueless square mode and Zach Galifianakis' unexpectedly effective space cadet shtick. Too often, however, The Hangover errs on the side of gleefully gratuitous slapstick, when it isn't indulging in sexist twaddle. Helms' ludicrously shrewish wife in particular is an offensive bit of caricature that serves as a convenient straw-woman for the film's stale, contemptuous "Let Boys Be Boys" ethos.