Missing in the City of Lights
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis
By Tom Bevis
There are a lot of comedies out there, and I don’t know about any of you, but I’m tired of the same in-and-out motions of our modern entries into the genre. There isn’t a lot of originality in comedy these days, most adhere to a strict set of rules and stereotypes and contribute very little. What we need, as fans of comedy and self-observing members of society is a slap in the face and a kick in the pills. We need a movie that breaks the mold, that shakes up the genre and proves that there’s still something left in the old comedy barrel.
And we were given The Hangover.
The Hangover is one of the most refreshing comedies I’ve seen in years, breaking free of typical structure and character outlines to build something that’s nearly unique in its foresight and examination. We all know what it’s about, but for the sake of tradition, I’ll give a little synopsis here: Three friends take their buddy out to Las Vegas for a no-holds-barred bachelor party and wake up the next day hungover with no memories of the previous night and discover soon after that their soon-to-be-married pal is missing.
This is one of the most original and instantly comical premises I’ve ever seen. The story is quick and unpredictable, the audience is guided in and out of all the nuances involved with visiting Las Vegas in a grand tour of Sin City’s cultural significance. Out of the main situation grows a tree of bad luck and bad decisions. As the three friends follow clue to clue to find their missing guy, everything that can go wrong does, creating a hilarious chain of coincidences and leads. The film moves with all the fluidity of a carefully penned crime novel with the hilarity that we should be able to expect out of a comedy.
Easily the strongest element of the film is its casting. The main three actors work together seamlessly, bouncing lines off one another with a remarkably authentic casual familiarity. Rarely do I see a film in which the dialog is natural and hilarious, a straight back-and-forth between each character, each playing off the others strength. Not once does one of the actors grab the spotlight and scream for attention, not once is one of the three cast back into the shadows. For the entire duration of the film, the three work as a single unit.
What makes the film the most refreshing, however, is that there is no moral, no cheap and quick proverb tossed into the end of the film that’s supposed to somehow justify and validate the experience. It’s that kind of thing that kills a lot of comedies for me. Even though most people would credit this film as a buddy picture, it doesn’t really promote the necessity of male camaraderie. Unlike director Todd Smith’s earlier forays into comedy such as Old School, there’s no cheering cry that if we all stick together, we can overcome any obstacle. By the end of the film, the characters don’t feel as if they’re unstoppable or that they have overcome a great burden, and similarly, they don’t feel shame for their drunken adventure. It’s exactly that lack of judgment and the absence of those horribly forced faux realizations that never happen in real life that makes The Hangover an instant classic.