Monday, December 7, 2009

Blu Ray Review: The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover
108 minutes (Unrated Cut)
100 minutes (Theatrical Cut)
Available from Warner Home video on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand and iTunes on December 12th.

This insanely popular R-rated comedy succeeds as much for what it doesn't contain (overt vulgarity, misogynist humor, gay-panic jokes, endless improv riffs) as for what it does contain (solid actors playing real characters, a genuinely compelling mystery, a truly plausible comic narrative). It's a wonderfully funny comic-thriller that works because director Todd Phillips and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore concentrated on making a good film first and a funny movie second. So instead of a bunch of gags that happen to be contained within a feature film, we get a wonderful movie that happens to be very, very funny.

The film works almost as well the second time around. If I was not laughing as hard on my second viewing, I was able to truly appreciate the intricate screenplay construction. I once again marvel at the brilliance of the film's backwards narrative, which basically allowed Phillips and company to make an R-rated comedy where all of the sexual hijinks, vulgarity, and general comedic unpleasantness occurs completely offscreen. This film ended the summer as the third-highest grossing R-rated film of all time, and the third-biggest comedy in history. It deserves both of those honors. As for the eight-minute longer 'unrated edition', I only noticed one small difference at the film's conclusion (a minor plot point concerning a car). I'm pretty sure that about five of the eight extra minutes apparently occur in the first act of the picture, since the bachelor party faded to black at the 22-minute mark in theaters and the 27-minute mark at home.

The film looks and sounds pretty terrific, but this is not and never will be demo material. There is a picture-in-picture commentary for the theatrical cut, which is basically the director and his three leads doing a normal commentary. The most interesting bit is the one scene that the studio asked the filmmakers to alter, and you'll be surprised at how insignificant it was. The actual video content comprises about forty-minutes of material. There's about 25-minutes of behind the scenes material that is annoyingly broken up into a 'map of Vegas'. Why they couldn't just combine these bits into a documentary is beyond me. There is a much-touted photo gallery, the name of which constitutes a huge spoiler. Don't look at the bonus material or even look on the box before seeing the film. There's also a music video version of a the 'Three Best Friends' song, as well as an extended version of the Dan Band doing a terrible cover of Fame. The highlight of the bonus material is a seven-minute improv reel of the invaluable Ken Jong. Mr. "Spanish Genius" is quickly making himself into a national comedy treasure, and it's great fun to have his outtakes on the disc. Oh, and there is a digital copy included as well, for those who care.

Overall, this is the rare comedy that's worth owning, as it merits at least two viewings to appreciate the genuine craftsmanship that went into this surprise mega-smash. Most of the extras are fluffy in nature, but there's enough good stuff to make it worth the work.

Scott Mendelson

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