Sometimes, Judge Eric Profancik stays in Vegas.
Some guys just can't handle Vegas.
The biggest comedy of 2009 comes to the small screen. How does the latest variation of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" hold up?
Facts of the Case
It's two days before Doug (Justin Bartha, National Treasure: Book of Secrets) and Tracy's (Sasha Barrese, LAX) wedding, and the boys are gathering to go to Vegas for the big bachelor party. Doug's best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper, Alias) and Stu (Ed Helms, The Office) and his brother-in-law-to-be, Alan (Zach Galifianakis, Tru Calling), set off for a wild and crazy night. Things get far crazier than they could have possibly imagined, for when they wake up the next morning, their hotel room is thoroughly trashed, they have no memory of the night before, and, worst of all, Doug is missing. Now Phil, Stu, and Alan have to figure out what they did last night to find Doug.
Positive buzz swirled around The Hangover. People flocked to see it and it did killer business, making it the fourth biggest grossing movie of 2009. (That may change no thanks to pasty, twinkling vampires nipping at its heels and potential future success of the upcoming Sherlock Holmes.) Considering the spate of films released this year, that's incredibly impressive. Being someone who adores the city of Las Vegas, I'm always game for a movie that showcases the city and the debaucherous behavior it encourages. To that, The Hangover is a perfect movie as it not only showcases the glitz of the Vegas Strip; but it also shows off some of the other nooks and crannies, all wrapped around an evening you don't want to forget—but you did.
While I definitely did enjoy this movie, I don't believe it's as good as all the buzz it garnered. Sometimes something that's just marginally good, something that just puts the pieces together mostly correctly, gets oddly rave reviews. The Hangover is such an event: a movie that's pretty good, doing quite a few things right, but doesn't really deserve such praise. But I'm not here to put the movie down. It's a humorous, fun, brisk film that introduces some crazy surprises to the old formula. It's those odd story twists with life breathed into them by quality acting that make this movie work. Look at the recent, similarly themed movie What Happens in Vegas to see how the idea can fall flat. Instead of turning into listless movie with a message, The Hangover revels in its crudeness. It doesn't try (too hard) for a moral, a message, or a big warm, happy ending. It's content to be rude and sick. It just wants to have fun, say a lot of naughty words, and not pull any punches.
The Hangover is all about the fun. What did these guys do last night? How crazy did things get? It starts with a missing friend, a destroyed room, a tiger, and it quickly goes awry from there. What happens next keeps you interested, and how the three guys act react make you want more. You're laughing at the antics of a crazy Asian man, a Genesis-loving Mike Tyson, and things too crazy to mention here. And as ridiculous as it gets, it still feels real due to the solid performances from Bradley, Stu, and Zach. They make these guys perfectly believable. You cringe at their antics and behavior, never stopping to think about how insane it all is. It's too funny, and you don't care to quibble about reality and plausibility.
This two-disc set contains two versions of the movie. Disc one contains the new, unrated cut with an additional eight minutes of naughtiness. The new footage isn't just a bunch of boobs and dirty words. There are scene extensions as well, but none of it changes or alters the flow of the movie.
While some of you may find The Hangover to be a stronger, more iconic comedy than I, one place where we won't disagree is on the quality of the DVD transfers. I am sad to have to state that this is a poor release from Warner Brothers. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video is surprisingly subpar, filled with myriad errors throughout both versions. What you'll find is an abundance of aliasing, shimmering, and artifacting. Add to that soft details, a flat look, and a heavy layer of grain, and you get a DVD release that is not worthy of the revenue it made for the studio. On the bright side, colors are accurate and blacks are rich; on the down side, their quality also fluctuates throughout and you never really get a scene that just pops. That should be very easy to do in a movie set in Vegas.
On the audio front, the studio made an interesting choice. For the unrated version, the disc contains Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English and French; for the theatrical release, a Spanish mix makes the options three. Why not include the Spanish mix on the unrated version as well? Though not as bad as the video, the English audio track isn't impressive either. Dialogue is fortunately always clear and easy to understand from the center channel; the surrounds create just the subtlest level of immersion; and the LFE does not get much use. All in all, it's an adequate but weak mix that does not showcase the potential craziness of the situations.
Continuing the trend is a selection of lackluster bonus items. First up is an audio commentary with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and director Todd Phillips. It's a casual, informative, and amusing chat about the movie. I'm not sure what to make of Zach's contribution to the piece; for if he was trying to being funny, he wasn't. If that's his natural persona…wow. "Map of Destruction" is an interactive map of locations from the movie. You click on each and get either an audio snippet from the film or a one to two minute behind-the-scenes video segment. "Madness of Ken Jeong" (7:55) is a collection of unused takes from the two scenes with a clothed Mr. Chow—easily the film's breakout star and scene-stealer (even with clothes on). "Action Mash-Up) (0:35) is a pointless collage of the "action scenes" from the movie. "Three Best Friends Song" (1:23) is an unused song from the movie, sung by the three guys. "The Dan Band!" (1:07) features the vulgar band from the wedding singing "Fame." A gag reel (8:15) shows all the silliness and flubs from the movie. And that last and best feature is "More Photos from the Missing Camera" that, as the name states, shows more pictures from the lost evening. Also included is a digital copy of the film. In watching all these I was disappointed in a cohesive deleted scene section plus a decent behind-the-scenes featurette.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
How does one try to describe Alan? He's a bit slow, a bit deranged, and a whole lot weird. You're not sure if you want to like him or hate him, yet he's undeniably interesting character. I wonder how much he'll regress in the sequel.
The Hangover is a funny, at times clever take on the rambunctious Vegas bachelor party. Filled with some cute twists, and likable and unusual characters, the movie will entertain and make you laugh. I didn't find it to be a riotous comedy, but it is nonetheless enjoyable. Overall the problem isn't with the movie but with the DVDs. I haven't seen such lackluster effort put into a major studio release in quite some time. As such, I cannot recommend this for purchase. With shabby video, uninspired audio, and weak bonus items, the DVD isn't worth more than a dollar rental.
The Hangover is hereby found not guilty of disorderly conduct. The
court orders the studio to sober up.
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