Home > Film, Movie Project, Movie Reviews > The Buzzed Appreciation of The Hangover

The Buzzed Appreciation of The Hangover

During the course of the Project there are a few movies that the method movie going experience will be blindingly obvious.  A few of these times, the methods are highly illegal (I’ll explain more after The Girlfriend Experience), but otherwise it makes for an easy week.  The Hangover is one of the movies where I didn’t need to think.  It was a come-to-Jesus moment in method movie going: I needed to drink during the film.  As such, besides the old standbys of mixing drinks and sneaking in pop bottles and water bottles (or your ever trusty flask), the choice of theaters lent itself quite easily: Emagine Theaters in Novi, the only Michigan theater chain with a bar.  Granted the drinks run around 6-10 bucks depending on the quality of the liquor you want, but it’s easier than sneaking in alcohol to the theater, especially not having a large man-purse – oh, sorry, satchel – to help with the subterfuge.  (For anyone reading outside of Michigan, 10 bucks is a lot for a mixed drink here, even if it is the going rate in Chicago.)  Being a recent college grad, however, I know a thing or two about pre-drinking:

  1. Your own drinks are always better (how to make a good Jack & Coke: Pour 4/5ths of a glass with Jack and 1/5th coke)
  2. It’s cheaper (you never go top-shelf, you look to the bottom, and go one shelf up – that’s your stuff)
  3. You always have better beer, none of that Bud Light, Natty Ice, Coors bullshit, we’re talking real beer (Beer is like coffee, if it comes in a tin can, run!).

Thanks to designated driver Stu, this going totally smashed was an option.  Nevertheless, I like to enjoy my movies sober, and I’m a casual drinker, I like to enjoy my drinks and not focus on getting drunk as fast as I can.  Looking back on it, The Hangover was a fun movie sober, but would’ve been a great movie drunk.

In The Hangover, 3 guys wake up the day after their friend’s bachelor party, hung over, unable to remember the night before, and also missing the groom.  Using clues from the night before, the guys retrace their steps to find their missing friend (idea for bachelor parties: don’t lose the groom).  We never see the night in question, just the aftermath (and some photos during the credits), setting up an oddball, absurd comedy of errors.  It takes after director Todd Phillips other venture, Old School.  The jokes are crude, but funny, and the characters likable and even identifiable, despite being completely over-the-top.  Every group of friends has someone who fits these archetypes, the laid back guy, the person who becomes paranoid over the slightest thing, and the friend who finds the most awkward observations to comment on.  It’s part of what makes the movie enjoyable, you truly feel that if you and your friends were drugged in Vegas this easily could be you. Hopefully, sans the Tiger, but pranks going wrong and escalating dares are staples of any friendships.

Even with the easily identifiable characters, they could’ve used a little more heart with a tad bit more story.  Judd Apatow does this in his film, leading to the growing spike and begrudging respect of frat boy humor movies.  The characters – while bizarre and absurd – are realistic and heartfelt, and the story grows out of their interactions.  The arc of Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Seth Rogen in Knocked Up make emotional and logical sense, and you’re happy for them.  There are few pay offs like that in The Hangover, the transformations you do get are unfulfilling or seemingly out of the blue, making you question the sincerity of the change.  It’s the only part where the film pretends to have a moral and teach us a lesson and is glaringly out of place.  After 85 minutes of absurd humor and oddball antics, we get 15 minutes of a morality tale.  Did the writers and director feel bad about the one-dimensional view on woman and relationships? Or did they need to stretch for time? It’s easy to try and analyze the entire movie in that regard – and there is plenty of material, like most of the frat-style humor, for a feminist critique on their portrayal of women and relationships.  The misogyny in these movies are disconcerting, but unlike Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, which invite the critique, The Hangover gets a pass since it never asks us to do anything.  It just politely asks us to enjoy ourselves.

One more caveat, the uninspiring cinematography.  With a mystery-style storyline and the Vegas setting – both the gaudy strip and the lifeless deserts – there was a lot of potential in the shots.  None of them were ever realized, especially on the strips and in the casinos, just average shots.  In a movie that could’ve been elevated up a few notches with a quirky look, the camera work was surprisingly tame.  Besides all the flaws in the film, I found it funny.  Not as funny as the rest of sold-out theater, which thought it was the best thing since Tootsie (if they had even heard of Tootsie), but an enjoyable comedy nonetheless.  The Hangover won’t change your life, or the genre, but you could find a worse way to spend 100 minutes, especially if you’re drunk.

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