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The Hangover

Todd Philips started out his career with documentaries about some very crude characters: Hated, the story of G. G. Allin, whose stage performances (they barely qualified as music, even by the liberal standards of punk rock) at least once included flinging his own excrement at his audience, and Frat House, about a group of particularly ill-mannered Texas frat boys. That Philips sympathized and even enjoyed these antics has been demonstrated by the mass-market comedies he has made since moving into the mainstream. Old School was about the best of them, with Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn leading a bunch of middle-aged men who want to recapture the hedonistic days of their youth. Now there’s The Hangover, which appropriates the plot of Dude, Where’s My Car? and applies it to a quartet of men who have no excuse for acting as idiotic as the teems in that movie did. On a bachelor-party trip to Las Vegas, three of the four wake up the morning after in a room filled with evidence of a wild night (including a tiger and a baby) and no idea where the groom is. Among the sights and situations Philips presents for our amusement as they try to retrace their steps are a breast-feeding woman; a cop who lets school kids use his Taser on people; a baby slammed into a car door and later locked into the car during the height of a desert afternoon; a grossly obese naked old man getting a rectal examination; date rape drugs, and more. There’s a joke about a passenger in a car on the highway telling the driver that it’s okay to change lanes when in fact there’s a truck right behind them: I pray some impressionable teen watching this doesn’t try next time he’s out riding with friends. I hate to sound so stodgy about what is admittedly a slob comedy, but this kind of thing needs a little finesse so as not to cross the line into simple puerile bad taste, and Philips doesn’t seem to know that line even exists. To have one of your film’s protagonists mention that he’s not allowed within 200 feet of a school (“or a Chuck E. Cheese”) is, let’s face it, just not funny. In what must be a Hollywood first, that same character is last seen during an end-credits montage getting graphic oral sex from a hooker. Who knows, maybe it’s a prosthetic, maybe not. But it was just the final example of a movie aiming for the lowest common denominator showing that there isn’t anything it wouldn’t do for a tasteless joke.

m. faust

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