Todd Phillips peddles gonzo male camaraderie fantasies in which lifelong friendships are forged and/or reinforced through trials by fire. The Hangover is something like the apotheosis of this genre, a rambunctious anti-P.C. saga about guys cementing unbreakable bonds during the amnesia-addled two-day fallout from their buddy Doug’s (Justin Bartha) Vegas bachelor party. After cocky schoolteacher Phil (Bradley Cooper) phones Doug’s bride from the Nevada desert to warn that her impending nuptials aren’t going to happen, Phillips’s story flashes back 48 hours to the lead-up to the notorious festivities, attended by Phil and weak-kneed dentist Stu (Ed Helms), as well as Doug’s slow-witted brother-in-law-to-be Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Exhibiting signs of drug-fueled brain damage, Galifianakis confidently treats the film’s first half as a personal showcase, nailing so many weirdly uncomfortable one-liners—including a priceless gag involving an infant and simulated masturbation—that despite the predictable homophobic barbs marring the early mood, he single-handedly inspires confidence in the zaniness promised by the subsequently established premise. Awakening the morning after the bachelor party in a casino suite with a smoldering chair, a chicken, and a tiger in the bathroom, and a baby in the closet, the three hungover misfits attempt to piece together the preceding night’s events.
It’s a situation modeled after Sin City’s promo-cum-catchphrase “What happens in Vegas…,” and one Philips sharply structures as a pile-up of outrageous revelations. Stu’s missing tooth! Mike Tyson singing “In the Air Tonight”! Stu discovering that he has married a stripper/escort (Heather Graham) with his grandma’s beloved “Holocaust ring,” to which Alan dimly muses, “I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust.” Shot with minimal adequacy, highlighted by a particularly inept composition that cuts off characters’ swearing faces (a transparent means of making forthcoming TV edits feasible?), the wildly profane Hangover isn’t visually pretty, and it has a narrative to match. Asians and gays are simultaneously slandered via Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow, while women are generally presented as shrill nags (save for Graham’s heart-o’-gold whore, whose reward for being good is getting to flash her boob during breast-feeding), thus making the climactic reaffirmation of marriage and family come off as phony twaddle.
Wrongheadedness aside, though, director Phillips wrings his scenario for consistent semi-dark humor, letting his odd-couple leads go for broke and wielding mystery as a comedic spur that keeps the proceedings from dragging. For better and worse, it’s coarse, vulgar boys-night-out ribaldry, and when it hits its inappropriate testosterone-y groove (capped off by a Galifianakis end-credits photo series to marvel at), the film, like its titular condition, hurts pretty good.
Edge enhancement abounds on this Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition of the über-success The Hangover, and blacks lack detail, which makes for a cardboard-cutout extravaganza, particularly in an early scene when Justin Bartha and an inexplicably jockstrapped Zach Galifianakis are trying on their tuxedos. Otherwise, colors are vibrant and dialogue is clear, but aside from the soundtrack, Hangover isn't as loud of a movie as I remember. Then again, one of the symptoms of a Ruffie hangover is memory loss.
Disc one contains the so-called "unrated" version of the film, with eight additional minutes of footage that I didn't really notice (again, blame the memory loss). The second disc is chock-full of extras that don't really amount to a whole lot. "Map of Destruction" is an interactive map that allows users to click on different locations from the film, like Caesars Palace, and watch a brief behind-the-scenes featurette; the kiddie-DVD style indicates that Warner Bros. is fully aware of the caliber of the film's audience. (On a side note, a food menu that doesn't appear to do much pops up when you click on "The Palms," but I'm a little dumber than your average third grader.) "The Madness of Ken Jeung" is even more annoying than Jeung's actual performance in the film, while "Action Mash-Up" is basically what it sounds like (and at 30 seconds, it's pretty useless). Also worthless: the self-explanatory "Three Best Friends Song"; "The Dan Band!," which features a full-length performance by the wedding band in the film; and the least funny gag reel I've ever seen. The only worthy extra feature is the audio commentary with director Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Galifianakis (who, at one point, quips, "Are you guys gonna talk the whole time?"). The foursome is detail-oriented, sounding off on the misleading font of the first few opening credits (like a "Garry Marshall movie") and the sunglasses each character wore. There's also a digital copy of the film.
If you've got a Ruffie hangover, you can relive the The Hangover for the first time all over again. Just skip the bonus material.