Piecing together the night before can often be frightening. Many of us have been there — getting freeze-frame flashes that combine to form a sketchy narrative of events. Friends, if they’re around, help fill in some of the blanks, reminding you of the stupid things the (how many was it?) tequilas made you do.
The Hangover, which broke all sorts of release records in its opening weekend in the United States and has received glowing acclaim from critics, is not so much about a bachelor party but about what happens afterwards (which is quite appropriate because otherwise it might be called Getting Drunk).
The groom and his three closest guy friends drive down the highway to Las Vegas for a weekend of debauchery, slugging their beers along the way. Naturally, things go horribly wrong — no surprises there. We’ve seen variants of the plot before, going back to the 1984 Bachelor Party and in Very Bad Things, to name but two.
The night arrives, we see the lads toasting to a good night and — cut to the next morning. The room is trashed, there’s a chicken prancing around, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the cupboard and the groom has vanished — and the three stooges have no idea how it came to be.
Too convenient? Perhaps, but their memory loss is because Alan, instead of spiking their drinks with ecstasy so they could “loosen up a bit”, spiked them with “roofies”, the date-rape drug. That gets the action going and the movie moves into pseudo-detective mode to find the missing buddy and restore order.
Todd Phillips, director of Old School and Road Trip, seems to revel in these getting-wasted frat-boy movies, but there is a relatable element in this genre for the viewer, particularly men still hankering after their adolescence.
The characters are stock, obtuse, void of any nuance and often offend. The groom, Doug (Justin Bartha), is thoroughly one-dimensional. His two best friends — the wise-cracking snappy dresser Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the feeble wife-beaten dentist Stu (Ed Helms) — are slightly more compelling but equally trite. The bride’s brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), is a veritable misfit of a man who seems to have modelled his persona entirely on Jack Black. There is also the obligatory cameo role, this time given to Mike Tyson, who spouts a few squeaky, incoherent lines and throws a cursory punch.
But The Hangover is a dumb-ass comedy, as well as a bromance, and doesn’t really purport to be anything more. It’s flimflam, but it’s still rather fun and very funny in parts.
There is a guilty pleasure for the viewer in letting down his or her critical guard enough to enjoy the film. The guys’ antics are ridiculous and their quips are often sharp — they’re entertaining, albeit inane, company for the 100-odd-minute duration.
But there are also some cheap gags that rely on stereotype to work, which feels lazy on the scriptwriters’ part.
The pay-off at the end, though, is the clincher that makes the movie live in the memory after leaving the cinema. It comes as the credits roll — so wait for the end.
There’s no pounding headache to deal with, no taste of sickly spirits and cigarette butts, but expect moderately exercised sides, some visual scarring and a nagging feeling you might have shed a few brain cells.