Has there been any other Judd-Apatow-free mainstream comedy received this well by the critics within the last three or so years? I think not. While I’m picking both sides of my brain for a definitive answer, here’s a buffet-style sampling of The Hangover‘s reviews thus far. Granted, it’s still early in the game, being only 15 reviews in, but still……15 for 15 out the gate is no joke.
More than likely, you’re already planning your weekend accordingly to smush a viewing of this one into the intinerary, but now you have sufficient proof that it won’t waste your time. Well, if critics are to be believed, that is.
Excerpts from top critics’ write-ups after the jump:
First, Screen International‘s Tom Grierson:
“In director Todd Phillips’ previous comedies, he’s cultivated a sense of the bizarre, but his tendency for episodic, unfocused narratives tended to undercut their comedic momentum. But with The Hangover, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s screenplay offers a tight storyline which keeps the film steadily moving forward, resulting in a rare comedy with a potent dramatic engine.
In essence, The Hangover is structured like a humourous mystery, as Doug’s three friends must piece together clues to determine his whereabouts. The filmmakers do a competent job teasing out the story’s surprises, and while the ultimate outcome doesn’t live up to the setup’s potential, the journey is sufficiently rewarding.
Without revealing any spoilers, suffice it to say that The Hangover gets excellent comic mileage from unexpected plot twists, which sometimes demands hairpin tonal shifts or peculiar celebrity cameos. Still, the filmmakers keep the proceedings mostly grounded in reality so that the stranger revelations still feel anchored in believable human interactions.”
Round two goes to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Michael Rechtshaffen:
“The boundary-testing script, officially credited to the writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “Four Christmases”) provides the flexible template, but it’s the deadpan comic timing of director Phillips and his terrific cast that’s ultimately responsible for “The Hangover’s” lasting effect.
And though the performances of de-facto leading man Cooper, Helms (Andy Bernard on “The Office”) and Bartha are uniformly affable, the movie serves gonzo Galifianakis much in the same way Will Ferrell busted out after his fearless turn in “Old School.”
Also along for the noticeably well-shot (by Lawrence Sher) raucous ride is Heather Graham as a sweetly disposed pole dancer whom Helms has apparently married, and Ken Jeong (“Pineapple Express”) as the certifiably unhinged, vengeance-seeking Mr. Chow.
Last but certainly not least, there’s Tyson, performing a soon-to-be-immortal rendition of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” accompanying himself on air drums. Who knew?”
Variety‘s Joe Leydon has the honors next:
“The trailers and TV spots suggest it’s just another beer-and-boobs, party-hearty farce, but “The Hangover” is surprisingly clever as well as R-rated rowdy. At once raucously free-wheeling and meticulously contrived, pic satisfies as a boys-gone-wild laff riot that also clicks as a seriocomic beat-the-clockdetectivestory.
Early on, it’s revealed that the revelers weren’t merely drunk, they were drugged while cutting an antic swath through the Vegas night world. Oddly enough, that’s just enough to anchor the pic in something like real-world logic, even as the plot takes ever more outlandish twists and turns. In fact, it’s tempting to read “The Hangover” as a wild-and-crazy spin on a scenario that would have been entirely suitable for a deadly serious ’40s film noir.
The humor is unapologetically raunchy — a closing-credits photo montage includes some borderline NC-17 naughtiness — and sporadically brutal. Helmer Phillips sustains an overall tone of anything-goes swagger that he neatly subverts with steadily mounting desperation and ego-deflating humiliations. Throughout it all, however, Cooper, Helms and even Galifianakis (whose character comes closest to caricature) remain sufficiently disciplined to refrain from going too far over the top.”
And, finally, a woman’s perspective…..Associated Press‘ Christy Lemire:
As in Phillips’ “Old School” _ by far the best movie he’s ever made _ the casting of these motley pals goes a long way toward making such crazy situations even vaguely acceptable. Bradley Cooper (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) once again plays it breezy and arrogant as de facto leader Phil, a school teacher who steals from his students and hates his life (a fact that will miraculously reverse itself by the movie’s end).
Ed Helms co-stars as Stu, a sweet but insecure dentist who lives under the tyrannical reign of his insulting, smothering girlfriend (Helms’ fellow former “Daily Show” correspondent Rachael Harris in a grating one-note role). “The Hangover” does give Helms a chance to show some unexpected dramatic chops and singing skills, though.
And although he’s there to tag along, Zach Galifianakis steals many a moment as Doug’s soon-to-be brother-in-law Alan. As a loner with a sketchy past who clearly yearns to be accepted by the other guys, his performance is a fascinating balance of creepy and endearing; it’s risky but it works.”