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the_hangover01Almost everyone has done it once; woken up with cotton mouth, a headache, a mystery bruise or two and only a vague recollection of what happened the night before. Some call these symptoms the “wrath of the grapes” others call them by their real name—the hangover. Hangovers are always unpleasant, unless of course you’re not the one with the splitting headache. If I learned anything in my twenties it was that’s it always fun to laugh at someone who is desperately hungover, which is exactly what Old School director Todd Phillips is counting on with his new film about three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed friend after a night of drunken debauchery.

The trailer sets up the movie nicely. It’s the aftermath of a wild Vegas bachelor party. There’s a tiger in the bathroom, a chicken in the living room, a baby in the closet and three very hungover groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis). What’s missing is the front tooth of one of the guys and the groom. Nobody knows what happened to either of them. The hazy-headed trio have just a few hours to retrace their staggered steps from the night before, find their friend Doug (Justin Bartha) and, for God’s sake, get him to the church on time.

The Hangover is an extreme “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” movie. A boy’s weekend version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it’s the ultimate nightmare for anyone waiting at home for the guys to come home from a bachelor party. These three take part in every vice The Entertainment Capital of the World has to offer from drinking to drugs to marrying the proto stripper with a heart of gold to hanging out with Carrot Top. It’s packed to bursting with every Vegas cliché, a hybrid of all the Sin City movies that preceded it. Call it Leaving Viva Las Vegas Honeymoon.

It’s also the funniest thing to come out of Vegas since the Rat Pack ruled the Sands. Not that it’s for everyone. There are jokes here that would make Hollywood’s current king of crude, Judd Apatow, squirm in his seat. If 911 jokes (Too soon? Apparently not!), holocaust references and a scene with a baby being made to do something the Divinyls once sang about (look it up, it was top twenty in 1991) sound too outrageous, then this movie is not for you. If, however, you don’t mind muttering “That’s not right” while laughing out loud, there is much here to enjoy.

The big surprise is Bradley Cooper in a role that not only establishes him as a leading man after a long run as the good looking second banana in movies like Failure to Launch and Wedding Crashers, but also proves that he can be funny. Really funny. He’s a reactive comedian and doesn’t get many punch lines, but his response to finding a tiger in his hotel room bathroom is priceless.

The Hangover is a wild brain-dead movie about men behaving badly that breaks so many taboos it makes raunchy comedies like Knocked Up seem tame.

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