The Hangover


The Hangovermakes a virtue out of bad taste and stereotypes, writes DONALD CLARKE

WHETHER YOU like it or not, this riotous new comedy from the director of Old Schoolis going to be around a long time. Already a huge hit in the United States, The Hangoverhas the look of a film that drunks and students (and drunk students) will be quoting at one another until the next ice age.

Following four precisely defined idiots – suave rake, henpecked nerd, simple-minded sociopath, ordinary Joe – as they bumble their way around Las Vegas, the film is guilty of sins that have weighed down too many recent guy-friendly comedies. The racial stereotyping is distinctly dubious. The few women who are allowed to speak reveal themselves as, variously, shrews, tarts and pampered princesses. But you can get away with almost anything if you’re funny enough, and The Hangoveris very funny indeed.

For starters, the script hangs around a beautiful high concept, which – Dude, Where’s My Car?noted – has been used in surprisingly few comic films. Following a debauched stag night in Las Vegas, three of the heroes awake to find their room in chaos and several ominous organisms roaring, steaming or wailing among the debris. There’s a baby in the bedroom and a tiger in the bathroom. The nerd (Ed Helms) has lost a tooth and the rake (Bradley Cooper) is wearing a hospital wristband. Most worryingly of all, the groom (Justin Bartha) is nowhere to be seen. It hardly needs to be said that nobody can remember a thing.

The attempts to piece together the bacchanalia generate some fantastically absurd situations and some hilariously inappropriate snatches of dialogue. Is counting cards illegal at blackjack tables? “It isn’t,” Zach Galifianakis’s slightly creepy moron explains. “But it’s frowned upon, like masturbating on a plane.”

The real keys to the film’s success are the fresh and unforced performances from a group of talented, low-key actors, none of whom, amazingly, appears to be Vince Vaughn. Galifianakis (labouring under the handicap of looking like a young Brendan Grace) is particularly hilarious as the groom’s weird brother-in-law and Bradley Cooper manages to find new things to do with the archetypal cad.

“Who are these people?” you say. Fret not. In a year or two’s time, they’ll be as familiar to you as your own mother.

Directed by Todd Phillips Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor. 16 cert, gen release, 100 min