I’ve never been the hugest fan of stoner flicks, despite having watched so many. They’re entertaining in a way, but ultimately pretty unsatisfying. Usually I need a dose of drama in a film to make me care about the comedy, which is why my favourite genre is dramedy for sure. But every once in a while I see a comedy film that really steps above the rest and manages to deliver some witty lines and situations without injecting any big dramatic elements. The last film I saw with this quality was Burn after Reading, which I strongly recommend.
But if you’re looking for a great time in the theatre, you have a much smaller pool of films to choose from. For this, I have to recommend Todd Phillips’s The Hangover. I don’t think it’s as good as Burn after Reading, but it’s definitely a step above most pure comedies. It somehow manages to keep all the aspects of a stoner movie without the nastiness. The main characters all do drugs, they cruise through Vegas, they meet a bunch of promiscuous women, and they break the law. But through all this, the film doesn’t stoop to the irrelevant gags and unlikeable characters that plague most modern comedies.
Our protagonists are Alan the weird guy, Phil the ladies’ man, Stu the nerdy guy, and Doug the straight man. Although they’re pretty typical comedy fare, they have their own spin on them that makes them seem much less two-dimensional than most characters of this ilk. Alan is genuinely lonely and just wants acceptance, Phil actually seems to love his family, Stu can let loose with surprising ease, and Doug… well, he’s pretty typical. The characters aren’t exactly innovative, but they’re way better than I expected. You can actually feel a sense of attachment to them, because they don’t come across as totally ridiculous; just mostly ridiculous.
The jokes, which are most important in a movie like this, follow a similar style. Though most of the jokes are pretty silly, the movie doesn’t linger on them. Between the big gags are smaller jokes embedded in the conversations amongst the leads, which I found, in many cases, to be funnier than the “main jokes”. There’s a surprising amount of character-driven humour that doesn’t throw itself in the viewer’s face; this stops the movie from hitting any real “dry times” — you can probably smile through 90% of the movie thanks to details like this. It keeps the movie fun, and it makes the characters more real.
This is all just my roundabout way of saying this: The Hangover is an above-average comedy. It’s funny without being exploitative, and it manages to do this without drama. It’s not an incredible movie by any means, but it’s something you should watch if you want a good time. You won’t be disappointed.
(Unless nudity and swearing offends you, in which case you should probably just stop reading this blog. Oh, and none of the characters in this movie are actually stoners, so it’s only a stoner movie in spirit.)