Monday, June 20, 2011

The Hangover (Todd Phillips)

The remains of the day.

(Second Viewing: Opinion still hasn't changed.)

Oh, how this fell short for me. "The Hangover", a very ingeniously-structured comedy film with an original stroke and naturally appealing characters, although how everyone seem to deem as a modern emulation of a comic masterpiece, never really delivered as what it is heralded to be. The film's establishment was good enough as we see a garden wedding being prepared and readied to the tooth, while looming overhead shots of the proverbial 'Sin City' that is Las Vegas reveal themselves as the opening credits roll.

It is quite menacing a foreshadowing that seems to belong more in a thriller film than in a raunchy comedy, but it is still an effective build-up. Then we get to meet the characters/culprits of the titular dilemma that roots out from the mere idea of a conventional bachelor's party: Alan (Zach Galifianakis), an eccentric, behaviorally ambiguous brother-in-law to be for Doug (Justin Bartha), the groom that is nowhere to be found and is the reason for the quest in and around Vegas and the Mohave desert. Then there's the pretty boy Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the dentist Stu (Ed Helms) who are both clueless on what they have done yet sublimely relishing all of it.

One of the most inventive things in the film is how these particular characters wake up, clueless, aching heads and all, in a room filled with residues of an overtly wasted and distorted night. A tiger in a bathroom, a mattress impaled in one of the Caesar Palace's adorning statues, a missing tooth and a baby. Oh, and add up an impromptu wedding that even predates the one that they're actually going to attend.

The said room (or villa), filled with out of place objects (and animals) here and there for the characters to pick up the pieces and re-trace their steps, is very unique, otherworldly and even surrealistically over-the-top. Indeed a promising initial entry pass into the craziness of it all. But after that, the whole film started to slowly disintegrate and tread the grounds of contrivance by way of how it tries to mend and connect events that led to their disordered villa and their pitiful physical states. At certain sequences, out of nowhere and of the blue, assortment of low-lives and pesky criminals suddenly enter the scene from all sides.

There's nothing wrong with that, The Coens' great "The Big Lebowski" executed that well without looking the slightest bit of being forced. But in "The Hangover", it's just too flimsy in its handling, letting the likes of Mr. Chow (great portrayal by Ken Jeong) and some other baseball bat-wielding scums crash and attack their way into the forefronts of the film. At least in "The Big Lebowski", we got a reason for the suddenness of the attack on the Dude's house and carpet, and it's articulate in its characters' exposition. In this film, on the other hand, the entrances of such characters are just too meddled and a bit exaggerated in their reactions considering that what happened the night before is just too uncontrollable and downright crazy to be easily and shallowly reciprocated with retribution. Add up the 'Black Doug' character near the end that is inserted suddenly without any prior introductory scenes, we got some characters whose immediate presence are questionable at best.

"The Big Lebowski" is brilliant in its gallery of bizarre characters that are lively and offbeat all at the same time. "The Hangover", in comparison, just offered nothing more but a sideshow of caricatures merely there to serve as oblique, one-dimensional ornaments in the whole shebang, and it's really quite disappointing.

Now you may ask, why compare "The Hangover" to "The Big Lebowski"? Well, considering the praises that this film has garnered that hyper-molded it as an instant comedy masterpiece, I think comparing it with a 'true' comic genius of a film is quite logical and valid. And based on what I've came up with, this film does not have enough on its sleeve. 'Some guys just can't handle Vegas'. Yeah, that's a fact, but there are also people who just can't handle too much hype. Count me as one.


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