By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Las Vegas has enough problems with drunken tourists running amok without The Hangover adding to it. Yahoos, don't try these stunts away from home.
Nobody should sneak a tiger into a hotel room, or steal a police car, or make an effeminate Asian gambler angry. Somebody might lose a tooth. Nobody should marry a stripper while a buddy disappears the night before his wedding. Somebody should remain under control even if a drug dealer gets the order wrong. And never, ever, carry around someone else's baby.
Better to let a frisky cast do it for you in Todd Phillips' movie, a comedy of outrageously inebriated errors that finishes better than it begins. Phillips made a cult hit of Old School then stumbled (Starsky and Hutch, School for Scoundrels). The Hangover puts him back on sophomoric track, a dude flick kicking in when the heroes' buzzes wear off.
The occasion is a bachelor party for Doug (Justin Bartha), a rare movie groom not having second thoughts. Those belong to Phil (Bradley Cooper), who's married and secretly enjoys it while wisecracking otherwise. Stu (Ed Helms) is a dentist who likes to use the "Dr." because it soothes the insecurity of living with a clingy girlfriend. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is Doug's future brother-in-law, a bearish man-child enjoying a bit of male bonding.
Sounds like nice guys, huh? They are lewd and lascivious party monsters, judging by the wreckage left behind after a wild Vegas night. Not a particularly fresh movie idea except that we never see how anything happened, only the aftermath. (Well, there are incriminating photos during the end credits that you shouldn't miss.) The Hangover spends a little too long setting up the morning after but when it comes, it's a killer.
The screenplay by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore is raunchy but the characters don't have a shred of indecency to deserve what happens to them. When Phil, Stu and Alan wake up without Doug, they find an infant in the closet. Where did it come from? Who knows? They take charge of it, clumsily, but literally three men and a baby. (Or as Alan says: "The movie with Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and that Jewish actor.")
Galifianakis delivers that line and every other comfortably dumb, with several priceless moments; a Rain Man entrance down a casino escalator, a showdown with a child packing a stun gun, and just general immodesty. There's no doubt that Alan is psychologically disturbed but predicting if it's the cuddly or scary type at any time is tough. Galifianakis, like a bushy Jack Black, tosses this movie over his shoulder and walks off with it.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.