If Internet buzz is to be believed, The Hangover, the new road trip-to-Vegas comedy by the director of Old School, is the "in" comedy of the summer.
As in insanely inappropriate, politically incorrect, uninhibited — but alas inferior to the guy who owns this corner of raunchy frat-boy comedy, Judd Apatow.
Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married Sunday. Two friends (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) drag him to Vegas for one last debauch because, as Phil (Cooper) warns him, "Come Sunday, you start dying."
Phil is a married schoolteacher who loves to cut loose, and put-upon Stu (Helms) is barely able to cajole a weekend out of his harridan girlfriend.
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"She beats you."
"That was twice, and I was out of line!"
Joining them is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the odd, bearded future brother-in-law, a guy you shouldn't let drink, the guys are warned. Love that comic foreshadowing.
This Todd Phillips farce is told in flashback as a battered, bleary-eyed Phil, standing in the Vegas desert, rings up Doug's fiancée and breaks a bit of bad news: "We lost Doug."
The Hangover shows us their search for Doug and reconstructs some of that wild night they can't remember, the people they crossed (Mike Tyson among them), how a tiger and a baby ended up in their hotel suite, how dentist Stu lost a tooth and "got married" (to stripper Heather Graham).
As in Old School, the idea here is to see how far is too far when you're trying to be funny. Bonking an infant on the head getting into the stolen police car? Naaah. Imitating the baby masturbating? Maybe.
Gay jokes abound among these no-longer-frat boys, as in "Don't text me. It's gay."
It's hilarious in spurts and several bit players score, but the movie doesn't have enough momentum to carry it through the dead spots. Tyson steals the picture, playing himself as a Phil Collins fan.
But Ken Jeong, playing a swishy Asian mobster, just reminds us that he was in Role Models, which starred funnier guys in a funnier script. The slack pacing makes every player in this come off as a second choice — Cooper is a less funny Paul Rudd, Galifianakis is no Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill, Helms is no Jason Segel.
And Phillips, despite having an eye for the outrageous laugh, is no Apatow.