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Sure it’s offensive, but it’s funny stuff

June 11, 2009|By Van Novack

Some critics bemoan the popularity of frat-boy humor in many of today’s comedic films. The considerable success of the Farrelly brothers and Judd Apatow has seemingly ignited a game of one- upmanship resulting in an escalation of sexually oriented and gross-out humor. The runaway success of these films probably means this trend will continue.

The latest release in this genre is “The Hangover,” a tale of four friends traveling to Las Vegas for a crazy bachelor party. The groom Doug (Justin Bartha) is accompanied by friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Phil is a miserable school teacher who hates his job and is unhappy in his marriage. Stu is a milquetoast dentist who is completely browbeaten by Melissa (Rachael Harris), his cheating harpy of a girlfriend. Alan is possibly disturbed, unemployed and socially retarded.

The film opens with Phil calling the bride-to-be Tracy (Sasha Barrese) on the morning of the wedding to tell her they have lost the groom and will not be able to get back for the wedding. In a series of flashbacks, it is soon evident the boys have gone on an unbelievable bender. They wake up in their Caesar’s Palace suite, which is totally trashed. Besides the considerable damage to the suite, the severely besotted revelers soon find a chicken, a tiger and a baby residing in the room.

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None of the men can remember a single detail about the previous evening and soon discover that Doug is missing. They assume he is wandering around the hotel and decide to go down to breakfast with the hope he will turn up. When Doug doesn’t appear, the three friends decide to try and retrace their steps from the night before figuring they will find the groom in the process. However, when they go to retrieve their car from valet parking, a police car is brought around, which provides the first clue they are in for an interesting day.

The ensuing story takes many twists and turns, including run-ins with Mike Tyson, a wedding chapel minister and an effeminate Chinese gangster (Ken Jeong). They also encounter the two frantic cops from whom they stole the police car (Rob Riggle and Cleo King). Much to his horror, Stu discovers he married a stripper/escort (Heather Graham) during the forgotten evening.

One thing sometimes lost in the discussion of the proliferation of these “R” rated comedies is the simple truth that they are often hysterically funny. While such films as “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” contained material offensive to some, their success owes more to the frequency and quality of the humor than to simply pushing the boundaries of good taste. Such is the case with “The Hangover,” which at its core is most assuredly a very funny movie.

I do not want to minimize the adult subject matter in “The Hangover.” This film is deservedly rated “R” for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity and some drug material. This rating is earned and should serve as sufficient warning to those offended by such material.


VAN NOVACK is the assistant vice president of institutional research and assessment at Cal State Long Beach and lives in Huntington Beach with his wife, Elizabeth.

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