Summer Movie A-Go-Go: “The Hangover”

Posted: July 2, 2009 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality

The Hangover 1It’s surprising to say this about a comedy, but I think the success of The Hangover may be its plot. Plenty of comedies have an ambling, barely-held-together logic from scene to scene, more interested in setting up a joke than explaining it in the context of a larger story (this isn’t necessarily a criticism, just an observation – I find Anchorman’s news-team gangwar scene absolutely hilarious, but I defy you to tell me how it makes sense in a story context).

The Hangover also pinballs between barely-connected gag setups, but here, those missing bits of logic – “Wait, WHY do they have the cop-car again?” – are actually crucial to the plot, recreating the genre’s propensity for weak story structure as an engaging mystery.

The plot itself is a lot like starting “The House That Jack Built” at the end – when there’s like 50 incongruous items to deal with – without any connective verbs. Explaining any of the links blows the jokes, so I’ll just offer a partial list of (seemingly unconnected) items the three leads awake with: a baby, a tiger, a chicken, fewer teeth than one of them had the night before, a police cruiser, and a receipt to a quickie wedding chapel.

From there, one of the great pleasures is watching the movie explain how any of these things are at all related, let alone crucial to the mystery of Just What The Hell Did They Get Up To Last Night and the location of their missing friend (and like any good mystery, a countdown to certain dooooom adds a bit of urgency to a plot that could otherwise wander around tying things together for weeks).

Each review singles out one particular actor as “stealing the movie” – Galifianakis is sweetly lunatic; Cooper does great charming-asshole; Helms is oddly affecting. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the way all three characters manage to become useful to each other in solving the “case” makes Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis all indispensible to the movie in their own way. Each is capable of delivering a simple line in a way that tells you a lot about their character (the way Cooper wheels the police cruiser onto the sidewalk to avoid traffic and grins to himself, “I shoulda been a fucking cop!”; how Galfianakis warily asks the hotel clerk if the real Caesar ever stayed at Caesar’s Palace; how Helms’ voice lilts more when phoning his girlfriend).

Now, at $10.50 a ticket, it’s difficult for me to recommend any movie that doesn’t have some kind of visual spectacle requiring its viewing on a big screen, so you can probably wait for DVD on this one. But you should definitely rent it immediately upon release.

Now, last time I reviewed a movie, a rankings system was suggested. I have pondered this, and I believe I’ve come up with a symbol that represents both Threat Quality Press and summer movies (and based on its inexplicable web popularity, might drive up site traffic!).

I give this film:

Crystal Skull Crystal Skull Crystal Skull

Out of a possible four Crystal Skulls!

Hm. This might need a little more work.

Tomorrow: A slightly-longer-than-Chris’s review of Up!

  1. V.I.P Referee says:

    The ensemble reminds me of a box of firecrackers just waiting for their troublemakers. I’ll have to catch this one.

    So is it triply cursed? Almost “all-powerful”?

  2. richie says:

    Where did the chicken come from?

  3. braak says:

    Well. When a rooster and a hen love each other very much

    Actually, you know, I’m not really sure how that process works with chickens.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    Actually, Richie does bring up a good point, so to clarify: not EVERY random bit of weirdness they find in the hotel room directly helps the investigation.

    For the purposes of this movie, the chicken may, in fact, be a “red herring.”

    (Not found in the hotel room: a red herring, since that joke might’ve been a bit too on-the-nose.)

  5. […] or coherent editing, I’ll admit – that summer movies do well. And hey, sometimes you get a real gem in the mix. Think back to…what, 2003? Did you honestly think you’d enjoy “Disney Johnny Depp […]

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