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Film Review: The Hangover

Inspired by the release of the trailer for the sequel to The Hangover, a remarkably popular “bromance” film from 2009, I decided to finally watch the original for myself, so see what all the fuss was about. Anyone who knows me will know that I wasn’t likely to be impressed. They would have been right.

This film doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination as to why I didn’t like it. To put it bluntly, it just isn’t very good. The film is unoriginally set in Las Vegas, on the stag party for one of the main characters. The next day the groom is missing, and it’s up to the rest of the party, the self monikered “Wolfpack”, to try and find him for his wedding, the day after. Where The Hangover’s immediate appeal lies is the fact that you never see the actual stag night. You are introduced to the morning after, and along with the characters, you are led to piece together what actually happened the night before.

Unfortunately the film doesn’t really make any use of this comedy-mystery set up, using it only as a shallow way to take you from one mediocre sketch to another. The film has a pretty negative vibe around it, mainly to do with one of the characters being softly bullied throughout, for being different and fairly simple, although in an actual mental deficiency kind of way, as opposed to a funny Stan Laurel kind of way. They later drop a hint that this may be as a result of drug experimentation, but the damage is already done. For a film which has such a loose grip on reality, it’s a bit overbearing to consistently touch on a subject that can be quite personal and distressing.

The primary characters (three of them) are covered quite well by the storyline, although none of them are particularly likeable, but the film also throws many other, more interesting characters at you, none of whom are explored at all. It’s actually rather depressing that so many characters, all of whom are introduced to us as an essential and fascinating part of the story, can be so dismissed and underdeveloped. Many other “bachelor comedies” manage to develop and personalise far more than just three characters, in films that usually have less opportunity to do so.

If a film is a piece of string, from beginning to end, this film is severely frayed and tangled into a bit of a mess. The jokes aren’t that funny, and the “mysteries” are obvious and drawn out.  This is a film that’s made for middle class, office working American bachelors, probably the sort who were too conservative to watch Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies (US title: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), which is a shame, because that is a superior film. The Hangover seems to want to take on the edginess of that film, but at every corner fails. Harold and Kumar mock stereotypes, but in a funny, inoffensive way, often self parodying themselves, or making the joke so surreal that it cannot possibly offend. In The Hangover however, every character that isn’t a white male is subjected to some odd, unfunny stereotype. They manage to include a stupid black drug dealer, a violent black boxer (passed off like an American “gangsta”), an overly camp Chinese guy, a stupid female stripper, and a misogynistic Italian-American. It seems like only the white men are allowed to be normal functioning people in this film, and that’s an obvious problem.

Like a lot of mainstream American comedies, this film has a large Jewish influence in it, from some of the actors, to the production team. This has caused a bit of controversy lately, when it was announced that Mel Gibson would cameo in the sequel. Due to some frankly disgusting anti-Semitic remarks that Gibson has made in the past, many of the crew were unhappy about having to work with him, which is understandable to a point. Gibson was dropped from the film, to be replaced by Liam Neeson. My problem, you see, is that when a crew choose to take the moral high ground in terms of hiring actors, even for cameos, they need to be very careful, as the message it sends out is “we only hire people who we agree with morally and ethically”. A fair enough message, would it not be that they hired a convicted rapist and drug abuser to appear in this one. Abysmal acting aside, Mike Tyson is not a desirable human being. Do the team honestly think that making an anti-Semitic remark is worse than rape? I doubt it, but they need to be careful to what they are inadvertently may be condoning, by being so openly selective in who they hire.

This is a film about unlikeable people being prats with too much money. Maybe that will appeal to those who can in some way relate to the characters, but for the rest of you I think it will maybe raise a few chuckles at best. To me, this film was a bit like trying to watch a really great movie that has a huge dick blocking the view. There’s something really interesting going on back there, and it’s criminal that it doesn’t get more screen time, but something self obsessed and undesirable is taking up the majority of it.

If I had to grade it, I’d consider giving it 5 out of 10. There’s something amusing in there somewhere, but it’s a vapid, intelligence free affair, one that depressed me more than entertained.