Remember the last time comedies were what we flocked to see at the movies? They say the last great heyday of American comedies was during the early eighties, when Bill Murray and Chevy Chase ruled and films such as Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981), Ghost Busters (1984), Vacation (1983) and Fletch (1985) dominated the box office and big laughs meant more to audiences than big explosions. But then the digital age took over and Hollywood—and audiences—turned to the hipper, newer advances in technology instead of relatable smartass characters who could deliver a zinger one-liner.
But the American comedy has made a comeback. Thanks largely to Judd Apatow, a genre that once seemed lost forever is now experiencing not only a resurgence, but a true renaissance in Hollywood. And the latest example isn’t even an Apatow product, but surely was not only inspired by Apatow, but seems to be a product of what can arguably be called the new Apatow Hollywood.
The Hangover, directed by Todd Phillips (Old School), is just pure raunchy entertainment. I can’t be any more plain. It is the story of four friends who head to Vegas for a bachelor party one-night blow-out and end up having the most outrageous night of their lives, one so outrageous that they cannot even remember what happened, nor can they find the groom-to-be, who is missing. The rest of the movie is spent with the remaining three guys trying to piece together the details of their lost night and trying to find their missing buddy. Hilarity ensues, but never once in any contrived, forced or expected ways. In fact, The Hangover is so perfectly crafted, from start to finish, and never bogs down, slows down or loses its pace that you are literally sitting back and enjoying every minute of the most insane joyride you can imagine, while grinning from ear to ear.
No, The Hangover isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as I expected it to be. But it doesn’t have to be. It is riddled with lines and situations that are so memorable and outrageous that they are comic genius without forcing you into a belly laugh. While I love physical comedy just as much as the next guy (which you do get a good share of), it takes more skill to sustain quality comedy throughout a scene without resorting to stunts just to get a cheap laugh. And you would have thought this film would have taken so many opportunities for the quick, cheap laugh and instead it chooses the sustained comic effect. And it works.
Almost everything in this movie works because it just stays relaxed and doesn’t try to do too much. Even though this is another in the Apatow-birthed “bro-mance” genre, there are none of those annoying “I love you, man” scenes, and whatever philosophizing is left to the story, not to the dialogue. Yes, there are a ton of clichés (this is a Vegas movie, after all), but it is all done in fun and none are cheap or wasted.
Mostly, what I appreciated most from The Hangover was that I never once felt cheap or wasted. Most of these crazy frat-boy comedies can insult your intelligence so deeply that you feel like you flushed your self-respect down the toilet an hour before walking into the theatre. Instead, The Hangover brings you in, crafts a story that I have to say is not predictable or expected, and you have fun every step of the way.
The only thing missing here is a terrific ensemble cast. Most of the performances, including Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are just ok, but they are nothing to write home about. The performance that really stands out is Zach Galifianakis, whose performance here will most certainly prove to be his breakout role as he is absolutely hilarious in a role that is as hard to define as this movie will be to forget.
And what a way to end a movie. If you thought the closing credits of Slumdog Millionaire were cool, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.