"The Hangover" (** 1/2) (100 minutes)

Wednesday May 27, 2009

You would have thought they were giving out multiple canisters of laughing gas to the preview audience on their way in. I never heard such collective laughter in a theater since I've been attending movies! Me? Well, I counted 3 chuckles and one laugh out loud. Maybe it was because I saw an extended 3 minute trailer on TV a week before the screening-which showed every major joke contained in the feature length product. Maybe it was because I didn't find Zack Galifiankas' borderline pedophile character very funny. Maybe it was my mood. Whatever the reason, for me, this was this year's "Juno".

I must admit, the premise and setup looked promising. Four dudes (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Galifiankas, & Justin Bartha) travel to Vegas to celebrate Bartha's bachelor party. Once there, each is unknowingly slipped a roofie and wake up the next morning with that "hangover" in which no one can remember the night before. Not only that, they wake up to find a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, & a tooth missing from the mouth of one of the participants. Oh, and the groom is nowhere to be found. When they start to investigate they give their car keys to the attendant who proceeds to bring them a police car. The rest of the film has them trying to piece together the events that would explain all this-all the while trying to find the groom who is scheduled to be married the next day.

Add to the mix Heather Graham's heart-of-gold stripper character (who nerdy Helms finds himself married to the next day) and a cameo by Mike Tyson (playing his 'ol heart-of-gold self). However, the film never convinced me to laugh anywhere close to the hysterics around me.

Director Todd Phillips barely distinguished himself with his previous comedic efforts (2000's "Road Trip, 2003's "Old School", and 204's "Starsky & Hutch"). The same can be said for co-screenwriter Scott Moore, whose most recent effort is "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past". However, this one should put them all on the map-if based on the response I heard this night.

A sequel is already in the works. Can't wait.

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