'The Hangover' will leave theater goers feeling well

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By Eric Harris

"The Hangover," despite a slow start, is a downright hilarious comedy that is a welcome change from all the big summer movie fare.

This movie doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. It is an R-rated comedy about a bachelor party gone wrong in Las Vegas. You can imagine the glorification of debauchery that ensues.

It all starts with Doug (Justin Bartha of "National Treasure" fame) getting fitted for a tux with his off-balance future brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis in what is sure to be a breakout role). Doug and Allan then head off to pick up schoolteacher buddy Phil (the hilarious Bradley Cooper) and dentist pal Stu (Ed Helms). The four head off to Vegas for a drunken, but well intentioned bachelor party.

So you have to wade through the expository stuff, like how Stu is afraid to stand up to his controlling girlfriend, Allan could be a problem if he drinks too much and Phil can't wait to get out of school and forget he has a job or a family, so you can get to the best part: the morning after the party. That's when the guys lose the groom.

This turns the film into a funny detective film. Phil, the assumed leader of the trio, even takes down notes as they try to backtrack their steps from the night before.

The detective aspect is what sets this film apart. I found it hilarious as the guys bribed witnesses and questioned by-standers to try and figure out such mysteries as why they have a tiger and a baby in their hotel room and why they came back to the hotel in a stolen police car.

I don't want to go into any more details than I have already since parts of this film (such as the taser scene) lost their luster for me since I had seen the preview so many times. But this is not one of those movies where every funny scene is in the previews, though one or two of the funniest moments are in the preview.

There are consistent laughs throughout the film and the story is actually interesting, which is a bit rare for a comedy of this nature. Of course the jokes are only as funny as the people telling them and this cast handles them all well.

I must reiterate how funny Galifianakis is in this. This is a comedian who knows how to sacrifice his body for comedy. His jutting gut and bushy beard make him a funny sight, and it helps that he can act as well.

Ed Helms, he of the prominent missing tooth, makes full use of his sight gag by regularly giving a big toothy smile which makes the gap blatantly obvious in each scene. He looks so unaware of the missing tooth that the joke never got old for me. Bradley Cooper is the one holding it all together and he has a certain charisma that really gets the audience rooting for these guys to find their lost friend.

I need to say something about the makeup department for this film as well. I normally don't pay attention to this type of thing (unless it's a zombie movie), but they did an amazing job in roughing these guys up. Just by looking at the three of them when they wake up in the trashed hotel suite you can tell that they have had a very long night.

It adds to the hilarity of the film when you can just look at a character's face and chuckle a bit.

The makeup is not the only sense of style in this film, though. Director Todd Phillips ("Old School") manages to squeeze in a few of his trademarks: the band from "Old School" that performed the curse-laden version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" makes an appearance, the song choice is dead on and very funny at times, and the director himself makes his obligatory mustachioed cameo.

Aside from those slight examples of style, this is your basic raunchy comedy, but it doesn't make apologies for that. Instead it embraces it, and that's what makes "The Hangover" so funny.

Eric Harris of Cannelton is a movie buff and blogger who posts reviews of films at www.canneltoncritic.com.