The Hangover is a rare comedy in this movie-going day and age in that it's not only genuinely funny through and through, but it keeps the laughter consistent throughout pretty much the whole thing. Just about every situation, gag, and ridiculous set of events is set-up perfectly and executed with brilliance. And what binds all of it together is the fantastic comedic chemistry between the leads. Now this is the quality of comedy that should be around more.
The Hangover follows four friends as they head off for a night in Las Vegas for one of the friend's bachelor party, two days before he gets married. However, the next morning they wake up to a trashed hotel room and no idea what has happened the night before. One of the four is missing, so the other three set out to find him, coming across things from their drunken night before of which they have absolutely no memory.
Just one of the many brilliant things about The Hangover is how it takes a simple, well-trodden premise (it reminded me very much of a straight comedy version of Very Bad Things) that at first seems generic and uninventive and makes it fresh and unpredictable. The latter is down to the fact that we are just as in the dark about the night before as the characters are. It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if we saw what happened then watched these guys figure it out. We're right there with them, no clue as to why there's a tiger in the bathroom or a baby in the closet (both are shown the trailer so those aren't spoilers), and it feels like we're just another member of the group going along of the confusing ride of trying to figure out just what the hell happened.
The jokes throughout are a mixture of sweet "bromance" and raunchy, adult jokes — one example of the latter involves an indecent hand gesture that one of the characters makes the baby do that walks the line of hilarity and going too far — and I'm happy to say they nailed the mixture down to the tee. It should be no surprise that some of the jokes are as raunchy they are, since the movie comes from the same director as Old School. The film sits very comfortably as a strong 15 age rating (R in the US), with, I imagine, a plethora of deleted scenes for the DVD which will push the raunchy comedy bar even higher. But as the theatrical finished product stands, there's just the right balance of raunchy and sweet here, and that's a tough balance to perfect.
As I said, the comedic chemistry and camaraderie between the leads is what binds the whole thing together. It's absolutely critical in a comedy like this that the main group of characters feel like real and true friends, and thankfully that's the case with The Hangover. All of the four leads are pretty much perfect for their roles, particularly Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis. The latter is easily the highlight of the film, providing the best one-liners ("Classic!" is a recurring line delivered by him that's as funny every time) and the funniest physical comedy.
But Galifianakis is the token "dumb guy" of the group, which leads to an area where The Hangover faulters: all of the characters aren't the most original, even if the situation and what is made of them is. You have Cooper as the leader of the group who is the most okay with getting messed up; you have Galifianakis as, as I mentioned, the stupid guy; Ed Helms as the geeky, more sensible guy; and Justin Bartha as the groom-to-be. That, and the fact that most of the women characters are pretty one-note, are about the only big weaknesses that I can see with The Hangover.
A lot of the fun that's to be had with The Hangover is trying to figure out what happened the night before to these guys. How is their a tiger in their bathroom? A baby in the closet? A mattress pierced through a statue outside their hotel? How did one of them lose a tooth? The movie successfully and satisfyingly explains how they occurred as the movie goes on, tying all loose ends up as to what happens with them, which was very important to feel like it payed off. Oh, and if you're the kind of person who likes to leave the cinema as soon as the credits start, you should make an exception this time – a year-end-top-10 credit sequence is in place here, that's all I'm going to say.
When a film like The Hangover comes along — which is only once in a blue moon, it seems — it should be appreciated no matter what in my book. It's certainly not a perfect movie, but what movie is, right? Any weaknesses of the film are overshadowed by the fact that it's genuinely funny. Is there anything more that you can really ask from a comedy?