"I'm psyched for you to see this movie, I think you're going to like it. We're really proud of it." Ed Helms to Starpulse's Mike Ryan in a recent interview about "The Hangover."

One of the biggest compliments I can give to a film that I'm reviewing is that I would pay money -- after just seeing it for free -- to see it again. The Hangover, without question, is one of these films and I guarantee that I will see it again. So, yes, Ed Helms, you were absolutely correct: I will try, now, to express in words how much I loved this film. Seriously, I loved the hell out of The Hangover.

First of all, I may be one of the few straight males in this country who did not enjoy one of director Todd Phillips' previous outing, Old School. I thought that film had an okay first half, likable enough characters, but the whole plot of starting a fraternity for the olds was a tad absurd; the last act -- involving a competition to keep the fraternity open -- was beyond tired. The Hangover corrects all of these problems, plus wraps this tales of male debauchery in to a nice tidy package that stays in the realm of realism and, at the same time, has heart -- something Old School lacked -- and is a technically very well made film.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married. His friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) are going to treat Doug to a night in Las Vegas for his bachelor party that also involves the inclusion of Phil's future brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). What starts out as an innocent enough and poignant, sort of, toast of Jägermeister on the top of Caesar's Palace, quickly morphs into a poisoned haze of memories and one missing groom. Along the way to find Doug there are -- among other things -- tigers, former boxing champions, naked Asians in the car trunk, stolen police cars, an unclaimed baby and a missing tooth.

Image © Warner Bros.

This film gets everything right; this is not, as I have heard from some, Very Bad Things, a film that got everything wrong. That film had characters that no one cared about; this film has characters you never stop caring about. Look, we've all been in some crazy situations. There are times in this film that you can't help but think, "You know, if a couple of more things went wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) that evening, well, I could have been in Phil, Stu and Alan's situation." These are believable characters that find themselves in a very out of the ordinary, but still in the realm of possibility, situation. This film, at its heart, is a mystery, woven by the magic of writing into the form of a comedy, with a side of raunch.

I want to briefly discuss the third act but I wont get into any spoilers. As stated before, I despised the third act of Old School. There is a scene that led me to believe that, once again, Phillips had lost his way with the end of this film. It's a fleeting moment when I thought that this might turn into a shoot-em-up action thriller to end the film ala the quite mediocre The Pineapple Express; I was scared this might be the case and entirely ruin the flow of what had become before. I can report that my fears were completely unwarranted. This film has a mission and it never falls off course, but also, thankfully, finds plenty time to breathe.

Also, I want to mention Ed Helms. Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis will get much deserved credit for their performances, but, to me, Ed Helms is the reason The Hangover works. Ed Helms' Stu is us, the normal guy, that is in way over his head and got caught up in the moment and, now, has no idea how he got in this situation. And, frankly, has the most at stake. I don't think this film succeeds without Helms; his nuanced, yet manic performance sets the tone. If Bradley Cooper's Phil is the cocky Paul McCartney and Zach Galifianakis' Alan is an eccentric and slightly less intelligent John Lennon; Helms' Stu is a toothless George Harrison. The guy that you may not realize it at first, but without him, the whole project implodes on itself. Remember at the end of Ghostbusters when Peter Venkman introduced Ray Stanz as the heart and soul of the Ghostbusters? Ed Helms' Stu is the heart and soul of The Hangover; a film that is, not surprisingly, hilarious but actually does have... heart and soul.

Grade: A

"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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