Monday, June 8, 2009


“Old School” director Todd Phillips finds himself in fine form once again with a farcically funny, guys-gone-crazy, hootenanny “The Hangover” (**** out of ****), the flip side of the darker 1998 Christian Slater facsimile “Very Bad Things.” Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Heather Graham, this side-splitting Sin City ‘lost weekend’ gives new meaning to the old adage “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.’ A riotous, rip-snorting, R-rated, road-trip comedy from fade-in to fade-out, this opus about three groomsmen and a bachelor sowing wild oats takes many unexpected twists and turns throughout its hysterical 99 minutes to keep you laughing long after the end credits. “Four Christmases” scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also penned “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” have concocted a fresh, funny, and far-out misadventure that consistently delivers laughs based on the comic formula of incongruity. Our sympathetic heroes spend the entire time behind the eight ball dealing with one trial and tribulation after another so outlandish that you cannot help by howl at each new revelation.

Doug Billings (Justin Bartha of the “National Treasure” movies) is due to wed his wealthy fiancée Tracy Garner (Sasha Barrese of “Legally Blonde”) in two days. Before he gets hitched, Doug’s two best buddies—school teacher Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper of “He’s Just Not That Into You”) and dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms of “Semi-Pro”)—along with Tracy’s weird brother Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis of TV’s “Tru Calling”) take him to Vegas for a last-minute blow-out. Tracy’s father Sid (Jeffrey Tambor 0f “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army”) hands Doug the keys to his classic Mercedes convertible and entrusts its care to him. Sid admonishes Doug not to let Alan get behind the wheel, and Doug and his cronies hit the road for Caesar’s Palace. No sooner do they arrive than they alter their plans. First, they check themselves into an expensive $4, 200 a night villa. Second, they ascend to the roof to toast Doug’s future with shots of Jagermeister. Third, cretinous Alan laces their liquor with Rohypnol or roofies, a date-rape drug that he mistakenly believes is Ecstasy so they can really enjoy themselves.

Phil, Stu, and Alan awaken the next day to a trashed villa. Alan waddles off to take a whiz and discovers that a real-live tiger—stripes, claws, and all—is lounging in their bathroom. Our heroes regroup and deduce that they have spent the wildest weekend of their lives. Phil wears a medical bracelet from his night in the emergency room where doctors treated him for a concussion. Not only has Stu lost one of his front teeth, but he has also lost his mother’s Holocaust ring that he planned to give to his girlfriend Melissa (Rachael Harris of “The Soloist”), when he proposes marriage to her. Incidentally, Melissa believes the boys are enjoying a wine tasting weekend in the woods rather than a bachelor party in Vegas. Nothing really awful happens to Alan because he qualifies as his own worst enemy. Alan discovers, however, that they have an infant in their closet. When the guys descend to the parking lot for their Mercedes, they are surprised when the valets whip a Las Vegas police cruiser up to the entrance for them.

Principally, our heroes remember nothing from the previous eight hours thanks to the roofies. Worse, they find neither hide nor hair of Doug. Indeed, Doug has vanished. Phil, Stu, and Alan set out to retrace their evening’s revelry in an effort to recover Doug. Stu learns he has married a stripper, Jade (Heather Graham of “Say It Isn’t So”), who is wearing his mother’s Holocaust ring, while a couple of Asian thugs want to pound them into the pavement for stealing $80-thousand from their whiny boss, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong of “Role Models”), who has lost is dough as well as his duds.

Todd Phillips relates most of this madcap merriment in flashback. No stranger to comedy, Phillips also helmed “School for Scoundrels’ and “Road Trip,” and he keeps the humor in high gear. One of the funniest scenes finds our hapless heroes making a deal with the Las Vegas Police to drop their grand theft auto charges if they participate in a tazer demonstration. The LVPD let elementary school aged children tazer them. Eventually, our heroes find Doug but they also have to tangle with Mike Tyson as well as Doug’s testy fiancée. Tracy demands unequivocally that they haul themselves back to L.A. for the wedding. Predictably, our heroes damage Sid’s priceless Mercedes and snap scores of incriminating photos of themselves at play. Unlike “Very Bad Things,” “The Hangover” will keep you doubled up in hysterics!

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