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Review: ‘Hangover’ is Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

Crudely hilarious, "The Hangover" is not for the faint of heart.

The story of a bachelor-party trip gone nowhere-but-in-the-movies wrong, it bears the indelible stamp of director Todd Phillips, who also wrote and directed "Old School" (here he works from a script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore).

If you're easily offended, maybe you shouldn't see it. Or maybe you're just the person who should. It's so funny it might convince you that sometimes the raunchy journey is worth the laugh-out-loud reward.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married in a couple of days — just time enough for a quick jaunt to Las Vegas with his buddies Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) and his future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). The latter is a little ... odd, or as his father (Jeffrey Tambor) puts it, there's something wrong with him.

Getting there is the first trick; among other things, Stu has to lie to his control-freak girlfriend (Rachel Harris) to get away. Getting home will be a bigger trick, as we learn at the start.

Phillips toys with time a bit, showing Phil calling Doug's fiancé after the big night out and giving her the bad news: They've lost Doug. But what they've lost in future fiancé material, they more than find in trouble. If only they could remember it.

Phillips wisely doesn't show the details, at least not at first.

Once some initial toasts are made, the friends remember nothing, allowing the audience to try to figure out what became of Doug along with them. We have none of the details, but neither do they. They piece together clues, bit by bit — surely the tiger in the bathroom means something? The baby in the closet? Didn't everyone begin the night with all their teeth? It's not exactly Sherlock Holmes, unless there's a story where he and Watson get tanked and mistakenly take a gambler's money that I'm not aware of. But there is real mystery, as it becomes possible that Doug has run into some genuine trouble.

Phillips wisely doesn't dwell on the danger, just sprinkles enough of it throughout to keep things honest (honest being a relative term in a movie like this).

Heather Graham is on hand as an exotic dancer who plays into the mystery, and boxer Mike Tyson has a small, funny bit as ... Mike Tyson.

As for the leads, Bartha's fine but we don't see much of him. Cooper is the straight man, his character the closest to the voice of reason and, thus, the least funny. Helms' Stu is the most straight-laced of the bunch, but little details — his laughter in spite of himself at a rude joke involving the baby, for instance — make it believable that he would make such a trip (and if you had his girlfriend, you might relish the chance to go wild, too).

Most of the big laughs go to Galifianakis, however, who is fearless in his depiction of the offbeat Alan. Desperate to fit in at any cost, no matter how idiotic (or ill-advised), his combination of neediness and simple-mindedness makes for some really funny scenes. But as in any good comedy of this sort, the group works best together, playing off one another in varying combinations.

They're wild, they're remorseful, they're worried and, yes, they're hungover. They're also laugh-out-loud funny, making "The Hangover" an unexpectedly intoxicating treat.

Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.

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