No cure

Todd Phillips kneels at the porcelain altar yet again

The Hangover
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Rated: R
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha
Director: Todd Phillips
WorkNameSort: Hangover, The
Our Rating: 1.00

The thing about genuinely charmless assholes is that ' in the right setting with the appropriate amount of Dionysian fulfillment ' they can be fun, even fascinating, for about two hours. Within this narrowly defined, indescribably fleeting moment of bacchanalia, the clouds part for the genuinely charmless asshole and everyone in his vicinity warms in the glow of his paradoxically cold and heartless beauty, wherein he shrugs off mortality like it's an afterthought to the sex, danger and camaraderie of the now. There is nobody more gifted at the art of the masculine rite of passage, the bachelor party, than the GCA. The problem is, for the many excruciating hours before and after this glorious instant of primal connection, you're still stuck with an asshole.

The Hangover, the new full-frontal, dude-bro assault from the porcelain god of Road Trip and Old School, Todd Phillips, is stocked with GCAs, personified by the typically genial Bradley Cooper, who slips so easily into the coat and slacks of a hostile jerk that I found myself retroactively disliking his previous performances. Phillips packs a car with three other unlikable creatures ' soon-to-be-married Doug (Justin Bartha), cuckolded Stu (Ed Helms) and functional mental patient Alan (Zach Galifianakis) ' but forgets to provide us with a relatable voice of reason. As if it wasn't bad enough to be stuck in Las Vegas with these middle-aged misanthropes, The Hangover does the inconceivable disservice of robbing the audience of that elusive sweet spot of GCA usefulness: the drunken escapade.

Instead we're bludgeoned with the before ' Cooper's Phil grossly overcharging his middle-school students for a planetarium visit in order to skim off the top and fund his best-man duties; Stu, whom his friends not-so-affectionately call 'Dr. Faggotâ?� several times, covering for himself to his abusive girlfriend by fabricating their trip as a quaint Vineyard-country vacation ' and the after when the foursome wakes up in a demolished hotel room, minus the groom, plus a tiger and a crying baby.

In other words, Phillips has taken away the only bright spot that could come of being around these people and opts to showcase the dull, offensive and humorlessly sober morning after. This is where pesky logic becomes the film's enemy.

Along the men's fact-finding mission, they discover that the source of their total lack of recollection of the night before is from roofies being slipped into their liquor. I'm no expert on the stuff, but I'm fairly certain that roofies are meant to make someone pass out, not to enable hours upon hours of criminal mayhem. And what mythical Las Vegas did the filmmakers imagine when they came up with the idea that four doughy men in their 40s could run rampant on the strip, stealing cars, destroying property and bringing wild jungle animals into their room without a cadre of security rounding them up quicker than they can say 'Rogaine?â?� Not to be a party pooper, but you can't go to the bathroom in today's Las Vegas without someone watching your every move on camera.

Which is not even the main problem with The Hangover ' that would be its desperate lack of comedy ' but it's indicative of the mind of Todd Phillips, himself an inch away from 40 and attempting a climb out of directorial purgatory after Starsky & Hutch and the Billy Bob Thornton flop School for Scoundrels. It's telling that instead of returning to his documentary roots ' he helmed the controversial '90s docs Hated, about G.G. Allin, and the exposé Frat House ' to earn favor, he's gone the route of this and a sequel to Old School, currently in production. Long live cinema's genuinely charmless asshole.


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