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The Hangover

Men Behaving Really Badly

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In a summer season jammed with big-budget, high-concept sci-fi blockbusters along comes The Hangover, the latest male-oriented comedy from director Todd Phillips (School for Scoundrels, Starsky & Hutch, Old School). An unabashedly crude, rude and vulgar journey into the male psyche, The Hangover is relentlessly, unmercifully hilarious, skewering everything and anything related to heterosexual male anxiety but never skimping on sight gags or character-based verbal humor. The Hangover succeeds where far too many male-oriented comedies fail: in being consistently, outrageously hilarious from the first scene to the closing credits (which you shouldn’t miss).

Doug (Justin Bartha) is all set to be married. All that stands between him and a walk down the aisle to his fiancée, Tracy (Sasha Barrese), is a harmless weekend in Las Vegas for the obligatory bachelor’s party. The bachelor party includes Doug’s best friend, Phil (Bradley Cooper), a school teacher with a penchant for “borrowing” money from his students’ field trip fund, Stu (Ed Helms), an insecure, uptight dentist who lives with his shrewish, controlling girlfriend, Melissa (Rachael Harris), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), a social misfit and Tracy’s older brother, along for the trip to bond with his future brother-in-law.

In Vegas, Doug, Phil, Stu, and Alan get ready for a night they’ll never forget. When they wake up the next morning -- bloodied, battered, bruised, and beaten in their high-roller suite -- they’ve forgotten everything. Apparently, someone slipped them some drugs with their alcohol. Stu wakes up facedown on the floor, his mouth bloodied and missing a tooth, Phil’s worse for wear, and the bleary-eyed Alan discovers a live, hungry tiger in their bathroom and a baby in their closet. Also, Doug’s nowhere to be found.

With the wedding 24-hours away, Phil, Stu, and Alan attempt to reconstruct the previous night’s misadventures, starting with a receipt from a wedding chapel and ending with a pissed off Asian mobster, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson also makes an appearance, searching for his missing tiger.

This brief description doesn’t do justice to the plot gyrations, absurd revelations, and gags crammed into Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) screenplay (with, presumably, a polish by writer-director Todd Philips). The four characters aren’t exactly poster children for socially acceptable behavior. No thanks to the wonders of the inhibition-releasing drugs they inadvertently imbibe early in the evening, they give their inner adolescent males (with adult credit cards) loose on Vegas, with predictably disastrous, cringe inducing, if no less gleefully riotous results. We don’t so much as laugh with the four characters’ self-induced predicament as at their alcohol- and hangover-induced decisions (usually mixed in with a relief that we’re not actually them).

As a general rule, comedies succeed or fail on the inherent chemistry between the leads and The Hangover is no different. In his four leads, Philips has assembled a cast that’s both gifted with impeccable comic timing and believable as friends. Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis take every opportunity Philips gives them to shine. The supporting cast naturally has fewer opportunities, but Heather Graham (remember her?) makes the most out of her brief appearance as Jade a stripper, and the seemingly fearless Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow is equal parts ridiculous and terrifying (and most definitely un-P.C.). We don’t so much as laugh with the characters’ predicaments as at their alcohol- and hangover-induced decisions (usually mixed in with a relief that we’re not actually them).