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Movie Review: The Hangover

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"And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself – well…how did I get here?"
– The Talking Heads

The Hangover is a lewd and crude movie that revels in questionable taste. It’s shamelessly, exuberantly, politically incorrect. It’s ridiculously entertaining. It’s also something else altogether.

It’s an interesting, layered movie about looking back and asking: “How did I get here?”The movie begins with Tracy answering a distressing phone call, just five hours before she and Doug are set to tie the knot. Doug has gone to Vegas with some buds for some last ditch bachelor action and now his friend Phil is on the other end of the line, falling apart. “We lost Doug,” he moans.

The story then backtracks to a time two days earlier as the buddies hit the road, travel to “Sin City,” check into a luxury suite, and head out to paint the town. Then, the movie blacks out and we next see them waking up groggy and hung-over in the morning with some mysteries to solve. Why is Stu missing a tooth? Why does Alan get chased out of the bathroom by a tiger? And, of course, where is Doug?

Now the men must retrace their steps from the night before, happenings completely absent from their memories. And once again, the plot takes the shape of characters asking the question: “How did I get here?”

Now, I won’t give anything away. Much of the fun is in discovering the truth along with the characters. But I will say that this sort of form following function with a structure that mirrors its theme sets The Hangover a cut well above what it could have been given its vulgar subject matter.

This approach also draws our attention to the movie’s main concern. Out of all the decisions one makes in life, a marriage proposal certainly ranks very high on the list of “how did I get here?” moments. The Hangover features men at three stages of newly-wedded “bliss,” one about to be married, one about to be engaged to a women who clearly hates him, and one just married to a women he’s never met outside of a drugged stupor.

The movie is a plea in these times of high divorce rates to take a few moments before popping the question. Don’t find yourself hours, days, or years later recovering from a “hangover” and wondering, “What happened?”

As you can imagine from my description though, The Hangover is clearly made from a male point-of-view. And, as such, the women in the movie come across as pretty uninteresting at best and downright wicked at worst. The one shining – and all too brief – exception is Heather Graham’s delightfully lived-in variation on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. But then, that is about as male-pleasing as stereotypes get.

This is also a movie where Mike Tyson (abusive male extraordinaire) gets a few brief, stammering, awkward moments on screen only to be allowed to go out on a sympathetic note as he sadly, even poignantly ponders the stupid comedy of errors that is his life.

Yes, I’d say The Hangover could probably work as a decent date movie. The many couples in the theater when I saw it were still on speaking terms as they walked out. But definitely, guys, proceed at your own risk – and maybe crib a few notes from here about the meaning of marriage to share during the drive home.

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About Todd Ford