The Cynical Optimist has a Hangover


Are you ready to let the dogs out?

Todd Phillips’ 2003 film, ”Old School”, may be one of the most important comedy films in the last 20 years. I’m not being a sarcastic asshole here, folks – I’m completely serious. Without ”Old School”, where would Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell be right now? What about the Wilson brothers? Todd Phillips’ raucous college movie started a revolution; a series of films like ”Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”, ”Starsky & Hutch”, ”Wedding Crashers” and ”Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”.

Where would Judd Apatow be? Before producing Adam McKay’s ”Anchorman”, Apatow was stuck in television land with underrated gems like “Freaks & Geeks” and “Undeclared.” Let us not forget that crucial Apatow roster members like Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen cut their teeth in films like ”Anchorman” – a direct result of the trio of Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn starring in another film together.

With that being said, Todd Phillips’ latest film, ”The Hangover”, is yet another turning point in a comedy scene where every single film is “from the guys who brought you Knocked Up and Superbad.” And don’t get me wrong, I love ”Superbad” and ”Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, but aren’t you getting the slightest bit tired of seeing Paul Rudd, Jason Siegel and Jonah Hill in just about every damn comedy out there? I’ll be honest, I love those guys but – it’s getting a little too routine these days.

”The Hangover” focuses on three groomsmen who lose their soon-to-be-wed pal during their drunken misadventures in Las Vegas. They memory-impaired trio must retrace their steps in order to find him in time to save the wedding. Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are Phillips’ comedic trio here while Jason Bartha plays the more level-headed groom-to-be Doug.

To say ”The Hangover” is original might be pushing it, I’ll admit that – but it does do a rather good job of presenting new twists to the template. Zach Galfianakis’ off-beat humor gives his Alan character enough uniqueness to separate his chubby physique and bearded face from Will Ferrell’s streaking Frank The Tank in ”Old School”. Cooper’s slick, sleazy schoolteacher could easily hang out with Vince Vaughn’s Beanie – in fact, there’s a spin-off waiting to happen!

The film is no doubt funny, but what I also found interesting is the strength of Phillips’ direction in ”The Hangover”. As always, there’s a killer soundtrack that puts you in the middle of a swirling frat house party of chaos, but there’s also some pretty damn competent cinematography here for a comedy. The film oozes with swagger and style, maybe it’s just the big lights of Vegas that bring it out – but regardless, ”The Hangover” certainly delivers.

If I were a betting man, I’d say none of us have awakened from a night of hardcore partying to find a Bengal tiger in the bathroom or a baby in the closet – but we remember those days fondly with nothing but smiles and laughs and funny stories. If anything, that’s what ”The Hangover” delivers in spades. We think about our own crazy ass friends and the shit they pulled – the blackouts and hangovers and weeks of cleaning up after drunken insanity.

Cheers, Todd Phillips, for making another classic romp that will no doubt change the shape of comedy to come. It’s about time the world recognized Zach Galifianakis for the amazing talent he is. See ”The Hangover” on a Sunday morning after your own drunken misadventure and double-over with laughter.