By this point you have probably heard all of your little buddies talking about how great The Hangover is. Shit, fully half of their stunted conversation is most likely quotes from the movie. You smile and nod and act like you know exactly what they’re talking about, but you don’t, and inside, that makes you feel woefully inadequate. You rationalize not seeing the movie by telling yourself that you’ve already heard all the funny parts anyway, and that Chad, Brad, and Clancy, have hyped it up so much that you won’t find it nearly as funny as if you had gone in cold. (I know this latter emotion well. I was afflicted by it the first time I saw Anchorman. There was a point where everyone I knew had seen it, and subsequently told me it was the funniest movie ever. When I saw it I had expectations that could not possibly have been met by any film created by humans, and was understandably a bit let down by the entire experience. One week in January 2006, I happened to go visit a friend in Reno, Nevada during the worst snowstorm in some time—according to some accounts it was the worst since 1986, other’s claimed it was the most snow they had seen since 1916. Somehow, two bands worth of fellow Seattlites also managed to get snowed in with us during the final leg of their tour. With nothing to do, and nowhere in particular to go, a dozen smelly people camped out in a living room and watched and rewatched movies. One film we screened every time someone else came around was Anchorman. And from that experience, a deep appreciation of content and artistry was borne.)
The premise of The Hangover isn’t anything original. Three friends and an awkward future brother in law (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Zach Galifianakis—who I’ve been told I look like, and I can’t tell if that was meant as a compliment or a slight) go to Vegas for a bachelor party. Mischief and tomfoolery ensue.
This isn’t Bachelor Party, though I certainly could have stomached a cameo by Adrian Zmed or Tawny Kitaen. This isn’t Bachelor Party 2, or even Ninja Bachelor Party. Two things set this movie apart from its predecessors. One, we don’t see any of the wacky misadventures. None of the participants remember a single thing from the previous night, and we piece together the puzzle alongside of them. This is not the first time that this device has been used, but it is employed here to great effect. By the end we feel like we’re one of them, we feel like we’re along for the ride. It is an interesting way to create an emotional investment in the audience, and it works very well.
The second thing that distinguishes The Hangover from other Vegas films, and from other bachelor party films, is the level of depravity that the characters sink to. It is truly impressive the depths they dive to. I simultaneously want to hang out with these men, and weep for humanity that they exist. Sure, we know the uptight dentist with the shitty girlfriend is going to get married to a hooker, but it is more than that, so much more. Watching Mike Tyson air drum to Phil Collins is worth the price of admission.
I know your friends are wrong most of the time. Let’s be honest here, they’re idiots that you only hang out with so you can feel smart, and feel good about the choices you’ve made in your life. But this time they do happen to be right, The Hangover is really fucking funny. You like Old School, you like Role Models, you’re not really that much smarter than your friends. You’ll like it to, promise. So, sneak away on your day off and see a matinee. You won’t regret it, and your boys will never have to know that you waited so long.
And don’t worry, despite what you think, they didn’t ruin all of the good parts for you.