‘The Hangover’: highball comedy at its best
‘The Hangover’: highball comedy at its best

Not to get all Freudian on you, but a man lives in a constant battle against his own id. Any time this pleasure-seeking part of our minds is let loose even a little, it always seems to leave some mess for us to clean up.

Now imagine a group of men whose ids are allowed to run completely amok in the pleasure-seeking capitol of the world, Las Vegas. Men who have no memory of the night before and who are forced to deal with an increasingly bizarre and hilarious string of consequences from their forgotten evening of wild drunkenness.

This is the set-up for the funniest movie of the year, “The Hangover.” Doug (Justin Bartha, whom you might remember as Nic Cage’s sidekick in the “National Treasure” movies) is getting married. So he grabs his two best buds, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (“The Office’s” Ed Helms), along with his oddball future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and heads to Vegas for his bachelor party.

Their trip starts off normal enough, but when we cut to the next morning Phil, Stu and Alan wake up to find their hotel suite trashed beyond recognition, and groom-to-be Doug is nowhere to be found.

With hardly any recollection of the previous 12 hours, the trio tries to piece together the prior evening’s events with the hope of discovering what happened to Doug.

I don’t want to spoil too much of what happens; the joy of this movie is the methodical disclosure of surprise after surprise as we learn just how wildly out-of-control the party got.

What I will say is that you should be thankful that none of your hangovers ever came accompanied with a tiger, a missing tooth, an unclaimed baby, Mike Tyson, a taser to the face, and a wedding to a stripper named Jade (Heather Graham). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The Hangover” is directed by Todd Phillips, who also brought us low-brow hijinks with movies like “Old School” and “Starsky & Hutch.” He infuses “The Hangover” with the requisite side-splitting vulgarity that has become the trademark of the recent R-rated comedy revival. But what makes this Phillips’ best movie is an inspired script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, along with outstanding performances by his three lead actors. Cooper proves he has the chops to carry a movie and be an effective straight-man. He makes Phil just jerky enough that you don’t mind seeing him get smacked around a little bit but is likable enough that you want things to work out for him.

Helms does tightly-wound to perfection as Stu clearly has issues, not the least of which involves his suffocating relationship with his girlfriend Melissa (Rachel Harris). He clearly benefits the most from having some chaos inserted into his life.

Then there is Galifianakis. His performance ensures that people will very quickly know how to correctly pronounce his name. This is a star-making turn as he owns virtually every scene as the socially inept Alan. With a full beard and a beer gut, Galifianakis gives us a character with virtually no shame and the ability to elicit laughter by simply standing around.

“The Hangover” is destined to be the comedy hit of the summer and is a must-see for all those who don’t count themselves among the easily offended. It also serves as a good reminder that it’s OK to let your id out to play every once in a while, just don’t be surprised if Mike Tyson shows up at your door the next morning really ticked off. You deserve everything that’s coming to you.

“The Hangover” is rated R for pervasive language, sexual content, including nudity, and some drug material.

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