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Not a review: The Hangover

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Two things strike me about The Hangover, which we plodded along to see last night after hearing an alarming amount of people singing its praises.

1. The funniest scene in the trailer isn’t actually in the film.
2. It’s Dude! Where’s My Car?

So no, Tyson doesn’t segue neatly between the Phil Collins drums and the big smack in the face.  There’s a good thirty seconds of stuff between the two moments – the song, then the punch.  In the film, it’s barely even a joke.  It’s pretty telling that the trailer doctors had to fabricate something funny in order to sell the film.

And, yeah, it’s the same film as Dude! Where’s My Car?  Not quite as shockingly awful, but still.  Group of guys wake up to discover they have no memory of the previous night, eveything’s gone wrong and – you guessed it – one of the things that’s missing is the vehicle they arrived in Vegas with.  And there’s a sexy woman (Heather Graham) madly in love with them. And an angry Chinese man.  Come on.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t any laughs. There are plenty, and they’re sustained ones. There’s rarely a stretch – aside from the hideous gay/Asian stereotyping of Mr. Chow, who crops up later in the film – where you’re not chuckling at something.  But that’s all it ever is: chuckles. There’s not a single belly laugh in the whole film. Not a single joke I’ll remember for more than a few days.  It’s juvenile gags that raise a smile. Nothing more.

The most worthwhile moment in the whole thing is a fleeting one, right at the end, and is resolved before it has any chance to go anywhere.  It’s Heather Graham’s character, in a dash of heart-on-sleeve loveliness, before everything’s made right again in her world in one swift swoop.  It lasts all of five seconds, and is brilliant. It’s almost as if The Hangover is too scared to elevate itself above boyish slapstick, done worse than a hundred other comparable films.

As for the main cast of characters? Well, The Hangover sets itself up as a voyage of discovery, but nothing is discovered. No one learns anything.  “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” someone comments early on. It’s true. While one domestically repressed gentleman decides to live life his own way, it’s small beer in a story that should have provided infinite possibilities for character shaping.  Instead, three guys end up off their trolley, panic about it, then laugh about it and pretend it never happened.  Not the strongest message the film could have left you with – and not the strongest impression either.

Denby Verdict: Wait ’til it appears on the telly.

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