The Morning After

The humor that fills ''The Hangover'' is of the rude, crude, vile, riotous, ''spit soda through your nose'' variety

Haven’t we all had a hangover that hits in the morning like a ton of bricks being dropped on your head one at a time? Over and over and over. You know how it happens — it starts with a toast, includes a couple rounds of shots, and ends with a vow to never, ever drink again. Even if you don’t remember the night itself, you almost certainly remember the feeling.

For the four hapless guys in The Hangover, that feeling is all too real. But the crazy happenings that took place also took one of their friends. Doug (Justin Bartha), the bachelor being celebrated, is M.I.A. on the morning of his wedding, which means his groomsmen are S.O.L. It’s what the groom does in Vegas that’s supposed to stay in the city, not the actual groom.

'The Hangover'
‘The Hangover’

Doug’s friends are perhaps the most mismatched group of guys around; in the real world their friendship would be unlikely, but in a comedy they’re wonderful stereotypes. Doug is down to earth and marrying the perfect woman. Phil (Bradley Cooper) has already married the perfect woman and has the perfect son, which makes him perfectly miserable. On the single side of the aisle, dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms) is about to propose to his she-beast of a girlfriend even though she has a penchant for sleeping with bartenders. And Doug’s future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is just plain odd. Alternatively called ”Fat Jesus” and ”too stupid to insult,” Alan’s a bit… touched. Speaking of touching, apparently he’s not allowed to go near schools, either. And once you see the sight gag he performs with a baby, you’ll understand why that restraining order is in effect.

The humor that fills The Hangover is of the rude, crude, vile, riotous, spit soda through your nose variety. It doesn’t matter if it’s a racial joke, a rape joke, or a 9/11-themed masturbation on a plane joke, no holds are barred. It’s as though writers Scott Moore and Jon Lucas drowned political correctness in a bottle of tequila, drank it down, and began writing.

Director Todd Phillips (Old School) stirs The Hangover together using one part Dude, Where’s My Car, one part 21, and one part The Hardy Boys. When Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in their Vegas suite, they’re shocked to find a chicken wandering around, a missing tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, and a baby in the closet. Piecing the proceeding 12 hours together is hard enough to do with a pounding headache, but they also have to race against the clock to keep Bridezilla from finding out that her betrothed is lost somewhere in Sin City.

Phillips paces the film nicely, ensuring that the guys experience their hangovers as one long throbbing headache, doled out in equal parts during the film. Just when a scene starts to linger too long, Phillips pounds the rest of it and moves on to the next round. The humor is based equally in the utterly ridiculous situation that guys find themselves in and the strong writing. Even mentioning a fraction of their antics would give too much away, but there’s an intelligence and irreverence behind the jokes that makes nearly each one a jackpot.

With Bartha out of the picture for most of the film, the humor rests with Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis. Cooper, who has become quite the sex symbol since his days on Alias, doesn’t have much to do other than be smarmy, take off his shirt occasionally, and be the jerk with a heart. He seems like the bad-boy jackass at first, but his determination to find Doug provides a little glimpse as to why they’re friends.

THE HANGOVER
starstarstarstarstar
Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis
Rated R
100 Minutes
Opens Friday,
June 5
Area Theaters

Helms, whose dry humor works so well on The Daily Show, plays it much more wild as Stu. Wound tighter than a $2 watch, Stu is prone to outbursts and over-the-top reactions. It’s fun to watch Helms let loose and have fun, but the role doesn’t allow him to be as clever as we’ve seen him before.

Galifianakis, who spends a surprising amount of time without pants on, is truly the gem of the film. His kooky Alan really has no bounds, and Galifianakis throws himself into the part like Kirstie Alley into an ice-cream sundae. Aided by a supporting cast that includes Heather Graham, Rob Riggle, Jeffrey Tambor and a brilliant cameo by Mike Tyson, The Hangover is one big circle of friends having a good time.