Directed by Todd Phillips, 2009's The Hangover did big business at the box office, big enough to make Zach Galifianakis and unlikely Hollywood big shot and big enough to get a sequel fast tracked to cash in on its success. Phillips has turned out some pretty funny frat boy/dude humor comedies in the past, with efforts like Old School and Road Trip but this one differentiates itself from the pack a bit not by what it shows, but by what it doesn't show.
The story revolves around a group of friends - a groom to be named Doug Billings (Justin Bartha), his best friend Phil Wennick (Bradley Cooper) who happens to be a school teacher, his pussywhipped dentist pal Stu (Ed Helms), and the brother of his fiancé, Alan (Zack Galifianakis) - as they make the road trip from California to Las Vegas for Doug's bachelor party. Upon arrival they book themselves a massive suite and prepare for a night on the town like no other. Unfortunately, things don't go quite as planned and when they wake up the next day there's a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, Stu's married a stripper (Heather Graham) and Doug is missing.
As the three remaining friends try to piece together just what exactly happened that night and figure out where on Earth Doug has gotten off to, they wind up on a complete misadventure involving naked Chinese gangsters, Mike Tyson, drug deals gone wrong and a run in with the Las Vegas Police Department.
< i>The Hangover is structured in an interesting way that holds our attention throughout the film. When it starts, Doug's bride, Sasha (the lovely Tracy Garner) and her dad (Arrested Development's mighty Jeffrey Tambor) are trying to figure out where he is as the wedding is about to begin and we cut to the guys in the desert, more or less admitting they've lost him. It's here that the story starts and the rest of what happened is told in bits and pieces as they try their damndest to put things right. It's a bit more interesting than your standard comedy that simply moves the story along from point A to point B and it allows for some really clever twists and a few legitimate surprises along the way.
The humor is on the crass side, particularly in the extended edition (this Blu-ray release includes it along with the theatrical version - there's an eight minute difference in the running time), but the movie has enough legitimately laugh out loud moments that you won't mind so much. There are times where it plays to the lowest common denominator, but this is, after all, a movie about four guys going to Vegas with the sole intention of getting loaded and if you've ever been in that situation yourself, you know that crass is pretty appropriate and not in the least bit removed from reality. There's a good mix of physical comedy, awkward bits courtesy of the truly bizarre and almost otherworldly Alan, and dialogue based gags placed very consistently throughout the film and because of this it never overstays its welcome.
The performances are all surprisingly strong, particularly when you consider that this type of film isn't necessarily going for 'great acting' so much as it is shocking jokes. The core cast members all do fine with their material and the supporting players, Jeffrey Tambor and Heather Graham in particular (with special mention going out ot Ken Jeong, but going into more detail on that would really spoil things for those not familiar with the movie!), are also great. It's Zack Galifianakis who really steals the show here, however. His Alan, a self described wolf pack of one, is such a bizarre fish out of water character that he really winds up with many of the best moments in the film (and in the accompanying still gallery that shows us what happened that night - check it out in the extras section). He plays his character with such an odd mix of completely unsubstantiated confidence and complete unawareness that you can't help but be intrigued by him even when you're laughing very much at his expense.
Like most comedies, The Hangover isn't for everyone and it's definitely going after a male audience (though hardly to the point that ladies won't laugh just as hard) but if you've ever been there, ever had one of those crazy nights where you've woken up in a stupor not knowing how you got there, you'll definitely get a kick out of this picture.
The Hangover looks very good in this VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.40.1 widescreen high definition transfer from Warner Brothers. Some of the scenes that take place out in the desert have been shot with the aperture wide open to let more light in and give those scenes a sort of sun baked appearance, so the color reproduction will reflect that stylistic choice. Otherwise, colors really look great here. The neon and glitz of Las Vegas pops off the screen on a pretty regular basis while skin tones always look nice and natural. Detail is uniformly excellent throughout the presentation, not just in close up shots where you expect it to be but also in medium and long distance shots as well. Texture is strong throughout, you can make out the fine lines of the tiger's fur quite easily for example, while black levels are strong and deep showing only minor crush in a few spots. There is a softness to certain scenes that was obviously intentional and which helps to establish that whole 'what did we do last night?' sort of fuzzy memory tone that the movie works with, but overall things shape up really well here.
The primary mix is an English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, though standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options are offered in English, French and Spanish with optional subtitles provided in all three languages as well. The TrueHD track sounds very good, offering up crisp and clear dialogue amidst all the ensuing chaos that the film inevitably gets into. The soundtrack, made up of an eclectic mix of music featuring everything from The Baja Men to The Cramps, is clean and clear and well mixed into the film so that it accentuates what it needs to. Sound effects are punchy without sounding over done while the periodic action scenes show strong channel separation. There's a lot of good rear channel activity throughout the film, from the casino scenes to the shoot outs, and even during the quieter moments there's some welcome ambient effects to listen for. Things do tend to be a bit front heavy a few times but that's not much of a complaint, really. This movie does sound very good.
Aside from the theatrical and unrated versions of the film, the primary extra on this disc is a picture-in-picture commentary in which director Todd Phillips is joined by cast members Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. While there's some good humor here and quite a few fun stories told, but a lot of what happens is just the four guys sitting around watching the movie in unison with us. There's a surprising amount of dead air here that hurts the pacing of the track and the tone is uneven in that the cast members seem intent on joking around the entire time while Phillips tries to get serious here and there and actually talk about making the movie. It's not a horrible track, in fact it's got some really strong moments, but it is definitely uneven.
Up next is The Madness of Ken Jeong, an eight minute collection of alternate scenes, outtakes and improvised moments featuring Ken Jeong's character from the movie. If you enjoyed him in the film, you'll enjoy this material here as he really goes off a few times. Not quite as amusing but still worth watching at least once is the eight minute Gag Reel containing yet more outtakes and flubs from the making of the movie.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are an interactive Map of Destruction which allows us to retrace the steps from that mysterious night in Vegas, a still gallery called More Pictures from the Missing Camera which contains some remarkably funny pictures of Alan, a forty-second Action Mash Up (nothing more than a collection of action scenes from the film), a clip of The Dan Band singing Fame, and the full one minute version of the guys doing The Best Friend Song from the movie. Animated menus and chapter selection are included on the disc as is some Blu-ray Live Functionality. All of these extras are in high definition, and all of them were included on the previous Blu-ray release of the film.
Exclusive to this Extreme Edition re-release are two new items not found on the Blu-ray disc itself. The first is a hardcover booklet including thirty some odd pages of photographs taken during the bachelor party, some of which are pretty funny and quite a few of which appear in the still gallery on the disc itself. The second exclusive is a soundtrack CD sampler that contains five songs: the Theme from The Hangover, Stu's Song, the Baja Men's Who Let The Dogs Out, Stupid Tiger, and Candy Shop. These are fun to have but don't really offer up enough incentive to upgrade from the previous Blu-ray release, particularly when you consider that the Blu-ray disc itself is identical. The digital copy that was included in the previous release is omitted this time around.
The Hangover is a pretty funny movie and it both looks and sounds really good on this Blu-ray release. The extras are decent, if not mind blowing, and the film itself a lot of fun but if you've already got the previous Blu-ray release, the included book and sampler CD aren't really reason enough to double dip. That said, if you don't have that last disc, this one does offer a bit more and unless you need the digital copy, is the one to get. Based on its own merits, consider The Hangover - Extreme Edition highly recommended, even if it is really little more than a repackaged version of that last disc.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.