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This week:
The Hangover

Filthy says:
"Talking dogs are funny."

The Hangover is pretty damn funny. Usually Hollywood's "raunchy" comedies offer as many unfulfilled promises as a Tijuana taxi driver. "Girls? I know where the best ones are." "Prescription valium by the gross? No problem." "Want your picture taken riding a zebra? Right this way." Once you pay your money, though, you find out the cabbie is liar.

Those cabbies tell you they'll go anywhere for five bucks. Once you're deep into the city, in a bad neighborhood and completely lost, they tell you how much more money you'll have to pay to get where you want to go. The "girls" turn out to be the guy's fat sister and wife, and they take your wallet while you are arguing with him about price outside a shanty with a corrugated steel roof on a dirt road with flickering bare light bulbs strung house to house. The valium turns out to be some weird shit homemade by a chemist, and the tablets are all slightly different shapes with flecks of mud and slivers of fiberglass in them. The fiberglass is especially painful when it lodges in your throat, and the pills make you see magic llamas and your gums bleed. The zebra? It's nothing but a Goddamn donkey someone whitewashed. Of course, you don't figure that out because you're sort of high on the homemade valium, until you get home and look at the pictures. No matter how many times you call them, the U.S. Embassy in Tijuana won't pursue getting your eight bucks back.

Just like that cabbie, Hollywood's raunchy movies usually promise you the full ride and then take you half way there. They promise the best and then crap out in a barrio of bad movie cliches. It's just as dishonest and phony as a Tijuana taxi, except the grassfuckers puss out because they're afraid of pissing off some tiny, vocal group of complainers, not being able to advertise during Saturday morning cartoons, or just because they're fucking cowards. I was thrilled that The Hangover goes almost all the way for the cab fare. It mostly delivers on being raunchy and crude, and it doesn't kowtow much to the conventions of happy endings, sappy, profound speeches about what it all meant, and all the shit weak-minded moviemakers rely on instead of originality.

To be fair, The Hangover has a happy ending, and it has some pretty conventional plotting. But, it doesn't bend over backward and betray everything that came before to arrive at them. That's not to say they are organic so much as director Todd Phillips understands better than most that the story is just the bones to hang the flesh of the gags on.

Justin Bartha is headed to Vegas with for his bachelor party. The pals with him are Bradley Cooper as a greasy teacher who steals from his students to fund the trip, Ed Helms as an uptight dentist under the thumb of a controlling girlfriend, and Zach Galifianakis as the strange, fat little future brother-in-law who will try almost anything. Once in Vegas, Galifianakis tries to liven the party up by slipping what he thinks is ecstasy into their drinks. It's actually roofies.

Sometime the next day, the boys wake up with raging hangovers in their trashed suite with a baby in the closet, a live tiger in the bathroom, Helms missing a tooth, Mike Tyson pissed off at them and the groom missing. They have to piece together what happened so they can find Bartha and get him back to California. They discover they stole a cop car, kidnapped Tyson's tiger (and tried to buttfuck it), totaled a classic Mercedes convertible, Helms got married to a stripper played by Heather Graham, and they took $80,000 from a fey, violent Chinese gangster.

The Hangover has a good pace and it fills its 100 minutes with mostly strong gags that go beyond the tepid vision of a Vegas weekend that got away. I mean, compared to a horseshit fantasy like What Happens in Vegas where Vegas naughtiness feels about as weak as a cup of Sanka, The Hangover looks like a hell of lot better time. In that sense, it is much more like Go, which was also a damn good Vegas movie. The actors are likeable for the most part, and service their parts well. The movie captures some good Vegas shots that aren't the same old Strip-at-night, faux Eiffel Tower and the lights of Binion's meant to make you think Vegas is some glamorous, carefree playground and not a shiny facade on the sinister, grimy world of gambling, prostitution and drug-dealing. It seems like much of it was filmed on East Fremont, which is about as sketchy and spooky an area tourist is likely to go to in Vegas.

Todd Phillips either doesn't understand or just doesn't give a shit about women. The ones depicted here are a milquetoast bride, a sainted whore and a flat-out human-contact-hating bitch. They are all extreme stereotypes. They also are almost irrelevant to the story, so it's not that annoying. Another weak element of the story is its only character arc. That is Helms conversion from browbeaten dweeb into a guy who will stand up to his women. It's a cheat and entirely predictable. But director Phillips sort of gets away with it because he puts as little emphasis on this shit as he can while keeping the gags coming and the story moving forward.

Most important, The Hangover doesn't promise to go all the way only to stop the cab in the creepy part of town where sappy plotlines overwhelm the vulgar, or the moviemakers make the asinine assumption that we give a damn about characters they've been taking a dump on for the last hour. It stays sophomoric, funny and crude right up until the last five minutes. At which point you can walk out satisfied to know someone gets married and someone says something stupid. Four Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Jeff Craig of Sixty Second Preview

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Filthy's Reading
Harvey Pekar - Another Dollar

Listening to
Beck - Modern Guilt


Tell No One