At last, a real comedy

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009

I hope the Wayans family, or at least seven or eight of them, have seen "The Hangover"; it would be a useful lesson for them on how to do a comedy. And by "comedy," of course, I mean a film that is actually funny. Even if the Wayans are too busy writing an unfunny sequel to "Dance Flick" to be bothered with a trip to the multiplex to check out Todd Phillips' new movie, the box office numbers should grab their attention.

While Pixar's "Up" edged out "The Hangover" last weekend to remain atop the box office charts, it was close. Over the course of this week, "The Hangover" has gained momentum and looks to have taken over as king of the hill. $50 million and counting. "Dance Flick" you ask? Fading fast with a gross of just over $20 million.

Word of mouth. It is generally a good indicator of whether a movie is worth your ten bucks, but probably more so with comedies than any other genre. There is nothing more wasteful of your time than spending 90 minutes on a comedy that mostly just makes you aware of your legs falling asleep. When that is more interesting than what's on screen, well, you've just seen a Wayans Bros comedy.

Enough about them, though. I'm not nearly as bitter this week thanks to Todd Phillips and his B-List cast (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis). "The Hangover," a story about a bachelor party in Las Vegas that nobody can remember the next morning, is funny from start to finish. It's one of those movies that brings the entire audience together for 100 minutes, laughing together and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

There are holes in the plot - ask my mother - but Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis are so good that it doesn't matter. Plus, the story by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore is constructed in such a way that holes seem almost appropriate. The majority of "The Hangover" takes place in the 48 hours after the three friends wake up from a night none of them can remember. Naturally, then, there are holes in the story.

Watching Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis try and piece together the previous night is also fun as hell. When they wake up in their suite the morning after the party, it is immediately clear, as Cooper's Phil points out, they must have had a good time. Helms' Stu is missing one of his front teeth, there's a chicken wandering around their room, a tiger hanging out in the bathroom, and a baby just for good measure. Oh, and Doug (Justin Bertha), the groom to be, is nowhere to be found.

"The Hangover" is actually impressive on several fronts. Yes, it's funny. It's also interesting. Besides the creativity Lucas and Moore exhibit in piecing together an insane night for four friends in Sin City, each of the three main characters is unique. Phil is a little bit of a jerk, but that facade fades a bit over the course of two days looking for Doug. Stu, who calls himself "Doctor" even though he's "just a dentist," is in an awful relationship and only starts to realize that after meeting a kind stripper (Heather Graham).

Alan (Galifianakis) is an oddball. He's also responsible for the group's loss of memory, but I won't spoil that. Most importantly, Galifianakis gives the funniest comedic performance I can remember in quite some time.

That's true of the movie itself, too. "The Hangover" is the best comedy I have had the pleasure of spending ten bucks on in quite a while.

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