The Hangover: Frequently painful

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By Matt Brunson

THE HANGOVER

*1/2

DIRECTED BY Todd Phillips

STARS Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms

It's what's known as putting matters in perspective. Folks who regularly bash Judd Apatow for his various endeavors need only catch The Hangover to see that it's unfair to dismiss the former's pictures simply because they refuse to always toe the politically correct line. What's more, the majority of Apatow's films benefit from fluid plot developments, interesting characterizations, and gags that remain funny even in retrospect — conditions not enjoyed by this slapdash effort from the director of the similarly idling Old School.

Scripted by the team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), The Hangover finds the soon-to-be-married Doug (Justin Bartha) heading to Las Vegas to enjoy a final blowout romp with his three buddies: henpecked Stu (Ed Helms), dimwitted Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and prickish Phil (Bradley Cooper). But after a night of wild partying, the three groomsmen wake up to discover that the husband-to-be is MIA. For reasons later explained, the trio don't recall anything that happened the previous night, so they stumble around Vegas trying to piece the mystery together, a taxing jaunt that puts them in contact with two sadistic cops, a sweet-natured hooker (Heather Graham), and a pissed off Mike Tyson (as himself).

That a convicted rapist like Tyson would be showcased in such fawning, reverential fashion ("He's still got it!" admires Stu after the former boxer decks Alan) pretty much reveals the mindsets of the filmmakers and their target demographic. This represents the worst sort of pandering slop, the type that appeases impressionable audiences who don't even realize they're being insulted. It insinuates that practically every man is a shallow asshole who revels in his Neanderthal habits, and that every woman falls into the category of shrew or whore.

Again, contrast this with, say, the characters played by Steve Carell and Catherine Keener in The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in Knocked Up — recognizably flawed people who nevertheless remain likable and interesting enough to earn our sympathies. The dipshits on view in this film are neither funny enough nor engaging enough to command our attention as they wander through a series of set-pieces that reek of comic desperation rather then genuine inspiration (as evidenced in Old School and at least three times here, director Todd Phillips seems to believe that seeing a homely man naked is automatically a gut buster). Honestly, if I wanted to hang out with such backward clods, I'd save the ticket price and just go trolling in frat houses.

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