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The Hangover (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/15/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/14/2009

Own it on Blu-ray, DVD, & Download December 15th

I've mentioned before that I rarely if ever get out to theaters to see movies. (Unless, of course, it's a family film.) Therefore, I see most movies on Blu-ray Disc or DVD. As you know, there are plenty of upsides to this. The one big drawback is that if a movie is a huge hit, I have to listen to all of the hype (no matter how much I try to avoid it) before I see the movie. I try to not let this skew my opinion, but if a movie is a run-away smash and it's made by someone whose work I've enjoyed in the past, I'm going to look forward to it. This is the mindset with which I approached The Hangover.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married to Tracy (Sasha Barrese). Doug's best friends -- Phil (Bradley Cooper), a school teacher with a wild streak and Stu (Ed Helms), an uptight dentist who is a slave to his girlfriend, Melissa (Rachael Harris) -- have decided to take him to Las Vegas for one last pre-nuptial party. At Tracy's request, Doug agrees to let her weird brother, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) go with them. Much to Doug's surprise, Tracy's father (Jeffrey Tambor) insists that Doug take his vintage Mercedes convertible on the trip. Once in Vegas, Phil insists that the group get a luxury suite. As they prepare to hit the town, the quartet proposes a toast to Doug.

The scene then shifts to the following morning. Phil, Stu, and Alan awaken in the suite, which has been ransacked, with terrible hangovers. However, there is no sign of Doug and no one can remember what happened the night before. Knowing that they must return to Los Angeles for the wedding, the three begin a frantic search for their friend. As they attempt to retrace their steps, they encounter angry cops, angry gangsters, wedding chapels, casinos, and a former heavyweight champ. Will they be able to find Doug in time?

The Hangover comes to us from Director Todd Phillips, who was previously responsible for the hits Old School, Road Trip, and Starsky & Hutch. Looking at this resume, Phillips has a history of making films which has three trademarks; 1. they show men behaving badly, 2. they don't pull punches when it comes to being raunchy, and 3. they are laugh-out loud funny. The Hangover contains 1 1/2 of those elements. Yes, I fully realize that every movie must be judged on its own merits, but the story description of The Hangover sounds like a combination of Old School and Road Trip, so why would it be wrong to expect the movie to play that way?

There is something missing from The Hangover, and I just can't put my finger on it. All of the requisite elements seem to be in place. The cast is likable and clearly quite game at what they are doing. Bradley Cooper sheds any suave leading man qualities which he may have shown in the past to play a sleazebag. TV funny man Ed Helms is good as the straight man of the group. The always sort of weird Zach Galifianakis steals the show as someone is out of step with everyone else's reality. The premise may not be an original one (there are shades of the Vegas portion of Go here), but it's solid and serves as a great jumping off point for the guys journey through Vegas.

However, I simply didn't laugh that much. The script comes form the writers of Four Christmases and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Perhaps they saw this as their chance to cut loose, but in all honesty, the movie simply doesn't have much of an edge. Considering where Phillips has gone before in his films, I expected The Hangover to be way out there. However, the most shocking moment comes in a still-frame photo shown during the end credits. The movie wants to be wacky and fast-paced, but I couldn't help but feel that I'd seen it all before. At times, the movie reminded me more of Phillips' disastrous School for Scoundrels than of his big hits. (The Blu-ray and DVD both contain the unrated cut of the film which runs some 8 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I watched the unrated cut and haven't had a chance to compare the two, but at first glance, I didn't see anything so extreme as to have been cut from an R-rated version.)

But, if I really think about this, I shouldn't be surprised. If The Hangover were as crazy as I'd expected it to be, then it probably would be a movie which made over $275 million at the U.S. box office. I'm not going to call this "middle of the road", but it's just edgy enough to please middle America, but those looking for something truly new and different will be disappointed. The Hangover is a perfectly serviceable comedy which offered a few laughs, but it didn't live up to the hype.

The Hangover loses a tooth on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 18 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never overly dark or bright, and the colors look very good. The picture shows a very nice level of depth and some of the shots on the Strip or in the desert seem to go on forever. The level of detail is very good as well, as we can make out the textures on fabrics. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.4 Mbps. Just when I finished praising Warner for the Dolby HD track on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this track comes along. First of all, the recording level is quite low and I had to adjust the volume higher than normal simply to make out the dialogue. I'd expected to constantly be adjusting the volume after this due to loud sound effects, but that never happened. The stereo effects are pretty good and there are some moments of good surround, but other than the in-film music showing off some muscle, this is a lackluster track.

The Hangover Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Todd Phillips and actors Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms. This is a Picture-in-picture commentary, so we get to see them as they speak about the film. "Map of Destruction" offers an interactive map of Las Vegas where the viewer can choose various locales. Some simply have a graphic for what happened in that spot, while others contain a short behind-the-scenes video. "The Madness of Ken Jeong" (8 minutes) is a reel showing the actor's various takes on his scenes. "Action Mash-up" (35 seconds) is a very short montage of shots from the movie which we just watched. "Three Best Friends Song" (1 minute) is a slightly longer version of the scene with Helms and Gaifianakis singing in the car. "The Dan Band!" (1 minute) shows the group performing the theme from Fame in their unique style. The Disc has an eight-minute GAG REEL. "More Pictures from the Missing Camera" is simply a continuation of the stills shown during the end credits and doesn't introduce anything new.

Warner Home Video has also brought The Hangover to DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain in the desert scenes and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never too dark or bright. There is some very mild artifacting at times, but otherwise this looks good, although it's not as sharp as the Blu-ray. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As this track doesn't have the volume problems exhibited in the Blu-ray track, I'm going to say that it's better. The stereo effects are solid, as are the surround effects during the action scenes.

The DVD contains the same extras as the Blu-ray Disc, save for the "Map of Destruction".

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long