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The Hangover (2009)
Rated R

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianikis

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married in two days. His friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), along with his future brother-in-law Alan (Zack Galifianikis), take him to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. When they arrive, they make plans to have a night on the town that they'll never forget. Unfortunately, when Stu, Alan and Phil wake up the next morning, they have no recollection of what they did. Stu wakes up missing a tooth. A live chicken is wandering around their trashed hotel room. There's a full-grown tiger in the bathroom. They find a baby stashed in the liquor cabinet. And Doug is nowhere to be found.

Those are the only details I will give away as the rest of the movie is comprised of the three men's adventure (or misadventure) of discovering what happened during their special night in Sin City.

The Hangover was co-written and directed by Todd Phillips. You may not know it, but he directed 2004's Starsky & Hutch and 2006's School for Scoundrels and also co-wrote a movie called Borat. (You may have heard of it or, at least, heard several bad impressions of the main character several hundred times since it's release in 2006.) Although his previous films haven't been consistently hilarious (aside from Borat, which he did not direct), Phillips has always shown a knack for making improbable situations funny. The Hangover provides him with a wonderful opportunity to showcase that talent.

Finally, there's a mainstream, R-rated comedy that does not depend on anyone named Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Seth Rogen, or Ben Stiller. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianikis may be fresh faces but they handle the material here magnificently. Cooper, who I most recently saw in The Midnight Meat Train, is going to be leading man material soon judging from his role as the take-charge Phil. Helms, who many may recognize from TV's "The Office," is perfect as the nerdy, henpecked Stu. Galifianikis is equally well-cast as the spaced-out perv, Alan. It was also good to see Heather Graham back on the screen as Jade, a woman who factors in to their lost night in Vegas.

While its story and situations are completely over-the-top and highly improbable, The Hangover makes for a good -- if rather vulgar --escapist summer comedy.

Trivia: During the first scene involving Las Vegas, the Danzig song "Thirteen" is played. The room number the characters stay in is room "2452", which added together separately equals "13". Thirteen is a very unlucky number in Las Vegas, hence the movie's entire plot. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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