The Hangover


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Lindy Keffer

Movie Review

“To a night we’ll never forget!”

So goes Phil Wenneck’s toast at his best friend Doug’s bachelor party. And though he’s toasting a stereotypical group of guys bent on a prenuptial night of wild partying, this is not just any bachelor party. Doug’s groomsmen, Phil, Stu and Alan, have hauled their soon-to-be-hitched friend to Las Vegas in a borrowed Mercedes and splurged on a $4,200-per-night villa at Caesars Palace.

The big event starts with Phil’s unwittingly ironic toast on the roof of the hotel. Twelve hours later, the men wake up with splitting headaches. And it’s not so much that they���ve had a night they’ll never forget. It’s more that they’ve had a night that they can’t remember. At all.

What they do know is that their posh pad is trashed. Amid the rubble, they find a live chicken, a Bengal tiger and a squalling baby, but … no groom. What’s more, Stu is missing a tooth and Phil’s wearing a hospital bracelet. With the clock ticking down to the wedding just one day away (and the bride freaking out), the hungover groomsmen set out to piece together what happened to their buddy—and to their memories.

Positive Elements

Some good might be uncovered in the groomsmen’s commitment to finding their missing friend. And there’s a buried theme of Stu treating women—even prostitutes—with respect. Doug does go home and marry Tracy, promising not to put her through such turmoil again. (But, really, those things are not the point of the movie, and no one is pretending they are.)

Spiritual Elements

Because Alan is a bit overweight and has a full beard, another character refers to him as “fat Jesus.”

Sexual Content

The worst of The Hangover’s bad gambles fall into this category. And at the top of the list, there’s a full-frontal male nude shot, and another scene in which a penis is shown protruding from a guy’s open fly.

The latter of these gratuitously explicit moments is included in the closing credits, which are even more packed with indecency than the rest of the film. That���s because, after hours of sleuthing to discover the events of their forgotten night, the guys find a digital camera that proves they’re capable of worse things than they’d imagined. Among the images, showgirls show up in various stages of undress—including fully topless—sometimes straddling the men, sometimes prone.

Las Vegas, with its salacious sleaze, strippers and showgirls, is the bawdy backdrop of the story, and the setting is exploited for all it’s worth. From the beginning, the mantra is repeated: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Gaudy signs sprinkled throughout the outdoor shots advertise “100s of gorgeous girls” and easy access to complete nudity.

Groomsman Alan is the brother of Tracy, the bride, and he’s “that guy”—socially awkward and perpetually perverted. We first meet him as he’s trying on his tux for the wedding. Right off, he accuses the tailor of trying to touch his “shaft.” As he finishes the fitting, he peels off his pants and stands conversing with Doug in a jock strap. (Audiences see his bare buttocks.) It’s in this attire that he proceeds to give Doug an awkward hug. Alan later comments that he’s not supposed to be within 200 yards of any school—implying that he’s a convicted sex offender.

This becomes particularly disturbing when the guys discover the baby in their hotel room. Carrying the child around, Alan makes motions with the baby’s arm that mimic masturbation. We also see him running around the hotel villa in only a T-shirt. It falls low enough to cover his genitals, but barely. And as if the first time wasn’t enough, we see his backside again.

The other guys, while more suave than Alan, are hardly better role models. Even Stu, the most conservative of the bunch, is living with Melissa, his girlfriend of three years. Their relationship is a bad one, and a big to-do is made of a one-night stand Melissa had with a bartender on a cruise ship. In Las Vegas, Stu appears in his underwear. By morning light, it’s discovered that he has given Melissa’s engagement ring to a prostitute and then married the woman in a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The baby belongs to this girl, Jade, and audiences see her bare her breast to nurse.

As the guys board an elevator, it’s implied that the couple already on the lift had been engaging in male-on-female oral sex about one second previously. This sexual arrangement also gets some screen time in the end credits. Mike Tyson is shown asleep in bed with a woman. A male-to-male kiss appears in the closing credits. Phil pretends to “hump” the tiger. A cover band singer croons an embarrassingly provocative tune at the wedding. The tossing about of a used condom is played for laughs and verbal references are made to masturbating in public, semen and anal sex with a corpse.

Violent Content

In an attack, a naked man jumps on Phil from the front, wrapping his legs around Phil’s head. He then proceeds to beat all three of the groomsmen with a crowbar. Mike Tyson knocks Alan out cold. Phil is clawed by the tiger. The guys spend some time at a Vegas police station, where the officers make sport of Stu, Alan and Phil, allowing a field-tripping class of grade schoolers to practice using a stun gun on them. Alan is hit in the face with the weapon’s stinging wires.

Alan slices his palm open in an attempt to instigate a blood-brothers pact with the other groomsmen. Someone mentions that Melissa beats Stu up. He admits it’s true, but explains that she’s only done it twice and he’s deserved it both times.

Given that the car the guys drive is both borrowed and extremely valuable, it’s no surprise that the film includes several near accidents and one disastrous smash-up. (No one is injured.) Two characters—one being the baby—are hit by a carelessly opened car door. Thugs bash in the windows of a vehicle with crowbars.

Crude or Profane Language

Over 70 f-words, including a handful used in sexual contexts and several combined with “mother.” About two dozen s-words. And close to a dozen combined misuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. (God’s name is coupled with “d‑‑n.”) After that leadoff, it hardly seems worth mentioning that there are plenty of milder profanities, numerous references to male and female anatomy, and an obscene gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

For Doug, Phil, Stu and Alan, the whole mess begins with shots of Jägermeister. Hoping to increase the good-times factor, Alan slips some pills into their shots. He thinks they’re Ecstasy, but they turn out to be roofies (Rohypnol—also known as the “date rape drug”). This, they discover, is the reason for their complete memory loss.

No matter that they’re stoned out of their minds—the boys keep drinking the whole night through. Alcohol flows freely in the Vegas casinos and takes a prominent place at Doug and Tracy’s wedding as well. At one point Phil brags, “I drive great when I’m drunk.” (He is drinking in a moving vehicle, but not driving, when he says this.)

Other Negative Elements

Though marriage and family are given a quick approving nod at film’s end, plenty of disparaging ball-and-chain-type comments are made throughout. These are especially damaging coming from Phil, who is married with children, but says he hates his life.

It’s implied that the men have stolen a police car. Phil, a teacher, “borrows” the field trip money he collects from his students and uses it to gamble in Vegas. And speaking of gambling, there’s plenty of that to go around. The guys lose (literally—as in they can’t find it) $80,000 dollars in a gaming match. To make up their deficit, they undertake a card-counting operation at the blackjack tables.

Two characters vomit onscreen. The word “retard” is used more than once to refer to mentally handicapped people. A scantily clad Alan urinates on the floor in the hotel. An octogenarian is shown being examined in the hospital, his bare backside visible.


The Hangover is a movie about how much debauchery a handful of guys can commit—and forget—in one night. There’s not much more to it than that. In some ways, it’s a relief that the filmmakers didn’t try to make up for all the depravity by tacking on a “redeeming” moral at the end. Any attempt to do so would have been too little, too late.

Yet, in other ways, it’s surprising how subversive this film is, all the way through. For example, even with the elaborate wedding at the end, the concept of faithfulness doesn’t get much of a nod. Instead of promising Tracy he won’t ever try the same kind of shenanigans again, Doug promises not to do it “for as long as we’re married.”

Besides that, the makers of The Hangover weren’t satisfied with creating just any 80-proof R-rated movie. They included brazen, 100-proof scenes of male and female nudity, plus an overdose of foul language to ensure that their finished product was as sordid and titillating as possible.

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Lindy Keffer