HANGOVER, THE - Blu-ray review

...apparently, I have no sense of humor for finding so little joy in the runaway hit comedy The Hangover.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

Understand, it's not my job to determine for you if a film is good or bad. That's for you to decide. Likewise, it's not up to me to tell you what's funny. Humor is among the most personal of reactions, so what's funny to one person may be entirely dumb to another.

I mention this because according to several of my friends and colleagues who read my review of the previous Blu-ray and DVD editions of this film, I apparently have no sense of humor for finding so little joy in the runaway hit comedy "The Hangover." Would a second chance at watching the movie in its Blu-ray "Extreme Edition" prove more rewarding than the first go-rounds? No, I'm afraid not. I'll have to chance the reputation of a spoilsport, but I still don't find the gross, juvenile, sexist, man-child antics of a group of grown adults on a drunken spree very funny, not when one of them is a child molester, one is a teacher who steals from his students, and another is a man cheating on his partner.

"The Hangover" asks the age-old question, Can four guys who go to Vegas for a bachelor party, get wasted, and wake up in the middle in the desert with no recollection of how they got there or what they did the night before find happiness in the home-video market? Obviously, they found a spot. The film did great business in theaters and great business on disc, so mine is a decidedly minority opinion.

The news (which is either good or bad, depending on your point of view): The producers of this raunchy, 2009 romp appear to have aimed it squarely at men in their late twenties and thirties (and I suppose in a more-limited way for women of a similar age). More news: Todd Phillips produced and directed the movie, Phillips being the same fellow who gave us "Frat House," "Road Trip," "Old School," and "Starsky & Hutch." Yet more news: Insofar as I can tell, neither Judd Apatow nor Seth Rogen had anything to do with it.

The thing I kept wondering as I approached the thirty-minute mark was, When does it get funny? I mean, "The Hangover" was a smash hit at the box office, as I've said, so why am I not laughing? Light and amusing at times, yes. And not terribly offense, unless you have a low tolerance for swearing, peeing, drinking, and vomiting on screen. But laugh-out-loud funny? No. The whole opening sequence introduces us to the characters and little else, so we don't get much pleasure there. Then the rest of the narrative traces the activities of the main characters as they investigate the previous night's blackout. But once you've read the plot info on the back of the keep case, there isn't much else in the movie except the exaggerated revelations of the night before. In this regard, the film is clever, I admit; it's a sort of comic "Memento" in which we don't actually see the events unfold but learn about them after the fact. Beyond the gimmick, however, I'm afraid there isn't a lot going on in the story we couldn't anticipate well in advance; and since all of the characters behave in such an idiotic manner, it's hard to take any of it seriously enough to be humorous.

The movie feels like Phillips's "Road Trip" slightly grown up. It isn't quite as immature or crude as that earlier picture, but it's close. Here's the setup: Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) is getting married, and his two best friends since childhood, Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Stu Price (Ed Helms), decide to throw him a bachelor party in Las Vegas. They invite the bride's brother, Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), to come along just so the brother won't feel left out. Now, here's the thing: These guys are all in their early thirties but they act as though they're twelve.

Doug is a wholesome, clean-cut guy who doesn't particularly want the party. Phil is a handsome, hot-shot, a supercool dude, a prep-school teacher who swipes his students' field-trip money to gamble on the trip. Stu is an ultraconservative dentist in a long-term relationship with a domineering woman who hardly lets him out of the house, requiring him lie about where he's going. And Alan is the designated moron, literally, a dorky pervert whom the court has ordered to stay away from children, and whose behavior is so odd the other guys and the audience wonder throughout the film if he doesn't have a screw loose. The bride's father, Sid (Jeffrey Tambor), loans these fellows his prized, vintage Mercedes convertible to drive to Vegas. You can foresee just about everything that's going to happen next.

The first half hour is mostly exposition, with nothing much happening. Things begin to go south the moment they arrive in town. Despite their plan to stay out all night gambling, Phil insists they rent a penthouse villa at Caesar's Palace for $4,200 a night. They are not rich. So, are they nuts? The film's credibility takes a nosedive, comedy farce or no.

Cut to the next morning. They're all hung over, and they've trashed the villa. Stu has lost a tooth; Alan has lost his pants; there's a chicken wandering the premises; there's a tiger in the bathroom; there's a baby in the closet; they've lost Doug entirely; and none of them can remember a thing. The rest of the movie recounts their frantic attempts to remember their steps of the night before and find Doug. Along the way, they become involved with a wedding chapel, an attractive hooker (Heather Graham), an effeminate gangster (Ken Jeong), a drug dealer (Mike Epps), a couple of thugs, a stolen police car, purses full of money and chips, and Mike Tyson.

Let me put it this way: If we see a character in a movie accidentally slip on a banana peel, we might laugh if we knew the filmmakers meant it to be funny and no one was really getting hurt, or if we knew the character needed a comeuppance. But if we see the character deliberately deciding to slide on a banana peel, just for the foolish risk of it, and he falls down, it isn't very funny. So it is with "The Hangover." We see grown men deliberately choosing to do dumb things, like a steal a police car, so it's hard to feel any sympathy for them or laugh at their misfortunes.

OK, maybe these examples will give you a better idea of the tenor of the film: Alan the child molester takes charge of the baby and forces it to make obscene gestures. Then, in a grammar-school classroom a cop demonstrates a Taser gun to the youngsters by using the main characters as victims. The scenes are disgusting and stupid, and there's a lot more where that came from.

As Epps's character says, "You guys are f...... retarded, you know that?" Very true.

The Blu-ray high-definition transfer is a marked improvement over the standard-def reproduction, again retaining the film's original theatrical aspect ratio, 2.40:1, and maintaining a fairly decent color palette, with hues bright and vivid most of the time. Flesh tones are also more natural than in SD, although facial tones can be too intense, and there is less of the fuzziness noticeable in standard def. However, the BD picture quality is still often soft, and it's occasionally muddy in darker scenes. In other words, while it's good, don't expect to see the sharpest PQ in the neighborhood.

The WB audio engineers provide a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, along with regular Dolby Digital 5.1 for those who can't play back the lossless track. I found the TrueHD not nearly as hard, noisy, edgy, bright, or forward as the DD 5.1, and not only is the TrueHD smoother, it has greater impact, too. Nevertheless, there is hardly any sign of life in the surround speakers, and the bass remains thin, so it's hardly the most-memorable aural experience you'll ever have.

Disc one of this two-disc "Extreme Edition" Blu-ray set contains the R-rated (100 minutes) and unrated (108 minutes) versions of the film. In addition, we get a picture-in-picture commentary by director Todd Phillips and stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms; an interactive "Map of Destruction," taking us to some of the movie's locations; and four brief featurettes: "The Madness of Ken Jeong," about eight minutes of deleted scenes with the actor; "Action Mash-Up," about half a minute; "Three Best Friends Song," about a minute and a half; and "The Dan Band!" about a minute. After those items, we get an eight-minute gag reel and a lot more pictures from the missing camera; plus several BD-Live features, including "Cursing Mash-Up," a compilation of cursing in the film, and "Iron Mike Online Teaser," the champ's rendition of "In the Air Tonight."

The disc extras conclude with twenty-four scene selections; a few promos and trailers at start-up; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Whereas the previous Blu-ray edition was a Combo Pack, this "Extreme Edition" trades the DVD/digital-copy disc for a CD soundtrack sampler with five songs featured in the film: "Theme from The Hangover" with Christophe Beck; "Stu's Song" with Ed Helms; "Who Let the Dogs Out" with Baha Men; "Stupid Tiger" with Christophe Beck; and "Candy Shop" with Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band.

Then, to further differentiate this Blu-ray edition from the previous BD, you also get a thirty-two page, hardbound book of the "Best Little Chapel: The Unseen Wedding Album." The two discs and the book come in a double Blu-ray keep case, further enclosed in a cardboard slipcover-box.

Parting Shots:
OK, I said earlier that Judd Apatow was nowhere in sight on this one, but surely we can feel his influence here. Director Todd Phillips seems to have had Apatow films like "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" in mind when he decided to update his "Road Trip" for a more-mature audience. I didn't find "The Hangover" a particularly awful movie, just a bland, juvenile, and rather predictable one, with characters straight from "Road Trip" but ten or fifteen years older and just as dense, one dimensional, and stereotyped. Well, look at the bright side: It's in high definition, and Tom Green's not in it.


Film Value