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The Hangover: Extreme Edition DVD Review

The Hangover (2009) movie poster The Hangover

Theatrical Release: June 5, 2009 / Running Time: 100 Minutes (Theatrical), 108 Minutes (Unrated) / Rating: R, Unrated

Director: Todd Phillips / Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore / Songs List

Cast: Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Stu Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Heather Graham (Jade), Sasha Barrese (Tracy Garner), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Ken Jeong (Mr. Leslie Chow), Rachael Harris (Melissa), Mike Tyson (Himself), Mike Epps (Black Doug), Jernard Burks (Leonard), Rob Riggle (Officer Franklin), Cleo King (Officer Garden), Bryan Callen (Eddie Palermo), Matt Walsh (Dr. Valsh), Ian Anthony Dale (Chow's #1), Michael Li (Chow's #2), Sondra Currie (Linda), Gillian Vigman (Stephanie Wenneck), Nathalie Fay (Lisa)

Buy The Hangover from Amazon.com: Extreme Edition DVD • Extreme Edition Blu-ray
Original Releases: Movie-Only Theatrical DVD • Unrated & Theatrical Special Edition DVD • Unrated & Theatrical Blu-ray


When I first saw a picture from The Hangover, several months before its scheduled release, I figured it looked like something that could easily end up going straight to video. It didn't, in fact, instead braving the summer movie box office to the tune of $277 million domestically and $467 million worldwide.
Now, astronomical numbers are quickly losing meaning with ticket inflation and format premiums. To put the figures into perspective, let's go with this: domestically, The Hangover is the third highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, narrowly trailing second place sequel The Matrix Reloaded and both handily behind bona fide cultural phenomenon The Passion of the Christ. Not too shabby for a $35 million comedy with no major stars.

The Hangover certainly struck gold unforeseen even by enthusiastic test screening response and a sequel commitment announced two months before Opening Day. Sixteen months after the blockbuster's debut, director Todd Phillips has one of this year's most anticipated movies in the forthcoming buddy road comedy Due Date, all three leads have moved past their vaguely familiar stage to a reasonable degree of stardom, the savvily-greenlit The Hangover 2 has begun shooting, and Warner Home Video has just reissued the film in Extreme Edition DVD and Blu-ray sets. That last detail is of most importance here as we now review the DVD version...

The road trip, a recurring theme in director Todd Phillips' films, is where "The Hangover" begins, as the guys (left to right, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha) drive from L.A. to Las Vegas.

The Hangover tells the story of a Las Vegas bachelor party that gets out of control. Two days before his wedding, Doug (Justin Bartha) is treated to a guys' getaway from his longtime friends, schoolteacher Phil (Bradley Cooper) and dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Also joining them on this trip is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the odd brother of the bride. The group is highly excited to embrace local and pre-marital traditions by living it up for a night in Sin City.

But, all we see is a rooftop toast on Caesars Palace. The next thing we know, the guys wake up in their trashed upscale suite with no recollection at all of what clearly was a wild night. Among their unrecognized guests are a roaming chicken, a crying baby, and an alert tiger, none of whom hold any meaning to them. Plus, there's no sign of Doug. His cell phone is there, but he is not. Nor is one of Stu's lateral incisors (the leftmost of his four front teeth). The guys stick the baby (whom Alan names Carlos) in a Baby Björn and head downstairs to try to begin to figure out what happened and where Doug is.

One by one, they put the puzzle pieces in place, with each discovery leading to another or raising more questions. Among the things they learn: their memory loss stems from roofies (the date rape drug), one of them got spontaneously married to stripper/escort Jade (Heather Graham), and their paths came to cross with both flamboyant Chinese gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and former champion heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson (playing himself). Two big questions linger, however: where is Doug and can they get him back to Los Angeles in time for his wedding?

Having been admitted into Alan's pack of lone wolves, the guys make a nighttime toast from the roof of Caesars Palace. Among a live chicken and an empty energy drink can, Stu Price, DDS (Ed Helms) wakes up on the floor of the hotel suite with one tooth less than normal.

Like any massive box office triumph, The Hangover can credit circumstance with some of its success. Had it been released earlier, later, or closer to anything resembling a popular adult comedy, might it have grossed a lot less? It's tough to imagine it grossing much more than what it earned,
since we have to look all the way back to Beverly Hills Cop (1984) to find an R-rated comedy that sold as many tickets. Very few films released in that class between them did anywhere near as much business domestically (really just There's Something About Mary and Wedding Crashers compare).

To chalk up much of The Hangover's appeal to its timing is misguided. There are many more believable factors to explain the strong favor it curried with moviegoers and critics alike. Most of the answers lie in the film's brilliant design. The amnesic mystery is structured in such a way that viewers are put in the same boat as the protagonists, knowing little and wanting to know more. The closest cinematic comparison may be Christopher Nolan's Memento, which sought to simulate its lead's short-term memory loss by placing scenes in reverse order. The Hangover doesn't do anything nearly as extreme, but it ensures the audience invests in the story more fully than they do for most comedies.

Having viewers identify with the characters and empathize with their situation are among the movie's highest priorities. How many people have woken up hungover? Very many, I'm sure. The title alone, surprisingly not already claimed, grabs this demographic's attention. We can assume, though, that very few people have had crazy benders on the order of this film. So the movie wisely eases us into it, throwing one wild scenario on top of another and never playing them out for us in the moment. Imagine if you will, the film being the forgotten night played out in the present, in something resembling real-time. It'd be rowdy, chaotic, episodic, a great deal less funny, and something that many would have skipped paying to see in theaters.

The film is aided by its tone, which is unusually thoughtful and serious for a comedy. Sure, for many, the movie will produce a laugh every minute or two. Almost every line is a candidate for a response, especially after you've warmed to the premise and the group dynamic. But there is restraint to the zaniness and professionalism to the presentation. Where many directors would have settled for a simple fade-out to represent the time passage, Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch) has the camera rise above the guys on the rooftop and hold there for high-angle time-lapse photography of the night progressing and the sun eventually rising. Many fans of the movie won't give a thought to such a flair, but on some level they feel it and it adds to their enjoyment. There are a few other savvy touches, like slowly letting the bizarre morning after sink in for the guys as they come out of their stupor. There are so many wrong ways to handle a scene like that, but on this and other occasions, the film finds the right, reasoned ways.

Phil (Bradley Cooper) bribes the snide Dr. Valsh (Matt Walsh) for details on the group's forgotten emergency room visit. Singing along with Phil Collins and wanting his tiger returned, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson plays himself.

I know it's crazy of me to talk about The Hangover's cinematic stylings before getting into just how funny it is, but, recognized or not, the richness of the comedy is clearly connected to the skillfulness of the movie that houses it. The personalities of the main characters are a huge reason why so many viewers can relate to the movie's experience. These are modern guys, but they're accessible, ordinary ones. Of them, only Phil seems cool and reckless in any way that can be deemed threatening. Stu is something of a nerd, hopelessly whipped by his mean girlfriend Melissa (Rachael Harris). We don't see too much of Doug, but he seems like a decent, sensible guy.

Then there's Alan, who without a doubt makes this movie what it is. Part innocent child, part troubling creeper, nothing that Alan does or says is not entertaining. Most people coming into this movie had no idea who Zach Galifianakis was. Afterwards, they'll never forget this fat bearded man and his riotous scene-stealing. Prior to this, I had actually become a pretty big fan of the comedian for his work on Adult Swim's "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" I could not imagine a more appropriate or deserved transition to movie stardom than what Galifianakis does here. It is entirely true to his offbeat brand of entertainment and the perfect dynamo to fuel this film. If Robert Downey Jr. (the Steve Martin to Galifianakis' John Candy in Phillips' upcoming Due Date) could garner a supporting actor Academy Award nomination for Tropic Thunder, there's no good reason Galifianakis couldn't have done so here, had Warner Bros. campaigned for it.

The studio did lend the film some award season support, the least it could do for what became its seventh highest-grosser of all time (Inception has since bumped it to #8). In fact, the film did pick up some honors and nominations, rare though they may be for its genre. Among the more notable recognition: winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), picking up BAFTA and Writers Guild nominations for Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's original screenplay, winning a comedy/musical editing award from American Cinema Editors, and having its production design nominated by the Art Directors Guild. The Hangover even cracked the American Film Institute's list of 2009's top ten films. Though five of those ten went onto collect nominations in the Academy Awards' newly-expanded Best Picture field, The Hangover did not, to nobody's huge surprise. Comedy films, even those as technically proficient as this one, largely must settle for lesser honors, including Teen Choice Award nominations and the MTV Movie Awards' "Best WTF Moment."

In by far the film's funniest performance, Zach Galifianakis steals the show as satchel-wearing weirdo Alan Garner, who's quite ready to let the dogs out.

While Warner has long had an aversion to releasing unrated editions of movies, the studio broke with tradition for last December's home video debut of The Hangover. In addition to a movie-only DVD of the record-setting theatrical cut, Warner released a "2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition" DVD with bonus features and an unrated extended cut of the film.
This new Extreme Edition DVD, released earlier this month (October 2010) alongside a Blu-ray version, basically lifts the two discs from the earlier Special Edition. It doesn't, however, provide an authorization code for the soon-expiring digital copy on the theatrical cut disc. Also, the discs are unfortunately mislabeled; the theatrical cut is labeled the Unrated Version and vice versa.

I don't believe I've ever encountered an unrated cut of a movie that was substantially different or better than its theatrical cut (well, Walk Hard adds 25% new content, some of it quite entertaining, but I'm okay having only the theatrical cut of that underappreciated biopic spoof). Running 8 minutes and 6 seconds longer, The Hangover's unrated cut is not significantly better or worse than its theatrical cut. The extensions are not as simple as added raunch or reinserting cut scenes whose worth was questioned. No, the changes are fairly minor and short, though they still stood out to me, having seen the theatrical cut once in theaters and once more recently on DVD. There are a few new funny bits and in other cases, the film's rhythm and pacing seems mildly hindered by adding a less potent comedic coda or non-essential moment (like Doug being gifted the Mercedes from his new father-in-law, played by Jeffrey Tambor).

I'm very pleased that both cuts are offered here and at no expense to one another, as squeezing two versions on a disc without proper use of seamless branching could lead to obvious compression woes. Between the two, I might probably choose the theatrical cut in the future, simply for its significance and for it being what was decided upon. As far as unrated versions go, though, The Hangover's is one of the few that's not really tacky or objectionable.

Buy The Hangover: Extreme Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Set Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French; Theatrical Cut only: Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, French
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Two single-sided discs (1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $33.98
Cardboard Box with Eco-Friendly Black Keepcase and Hardcover Picture Book
Also available on Blu-ray Disc with Soundtrack Sampler CD ($35.99 SRP)
Still available as R-Rated Movie-Only DVD ($19.98 SRP), Unrated 2-Disc Digital
Copy Special Edition DVD
($20.98 SRP), and Unrated Blu-ray Disc ($24.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Both the theatrical and unrated cuts of The Hangover look pretty good in the DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentations. The unrated cut is given a single-layered disc (DVD-5) to itself. As such, it is given above average compression and a below average bit rate. Even so, it mostly looks sufficient, only showing slight artifacts to those scrutinizing. The theatrical cut doesn't do much better, sharing its dual-layered platter with bonus features and irredeemable digital copies. It too looks not flawless but fine.

The film's Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is unexpectedly big on music, prominently featuring recent rap and other songs at a considerable volume. There are also a few action sequences where score and effects flare. It's all capably presented with manageable peaks recreating the theatrical mix.

The interactive Map of Destruction charts the sights of the boys' wild night, including the Riviera Casino where "Rain Man" is paid hilarious homage. Pow! In the face! Rob Riggle describes his character, Officer Franklin, in the Map of Destruction short "Jail."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

All of the DVD bonus features are relegated to the theatrical cut disc, which is mistakenly labeled "Disc Two: Unrated Version". All of the material is carried over from the movie's first 2-disc DVD (even the digital copies, albeit without authorization codes).

First up is an audio commentary by director Todd Phillips and stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms. Unsurprisingly, the combination of this movie with this group makes for a fairly interesting listen. Though his comments are sparse, Galifianakis makes the track with his subversion and deadpan sarcasm. The screen-specific discussion sheds light on notable topics, such as Phillips' movie traditions, the babies, and the missing tooth effect.

An interactive "Map of Destruction" lays out thirteen places hit in the film. Selecting the gold stars brings up one piece of the puzzle, a location card with pictures and sound clips. Ten of them also lead to a short 1-2 minute video (13:47 overall) relating to the subject: a real shooting location, production design specifics, a character, or plot point. They are the following: Caesars Palace Hotel (1:34), Strip Club (1:03), Caesars Palace Suite (1:08), Best Little Wedding Chapel (1:07), Jail (1:30), Desert Lot Mr. Chow (2:00), Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (1:00), Riviera Casino (1:51), Hospital (0:50), Mike Tyson's House (1:44).

"The Madness of Ken Jeong" shows us unused moments of the excitable Chinese gangster Mr. Chow in the Mojave Desert and elsewhere. Zach Galifianakis gives a just-showered Stu (Ed Helms) a green screen surprise in the gag reel.

"The Madness of Ken Jeong" (7:55) shows us unused bits of the manic Mr. Chow character which some have deemed offensive to Asians and others consider the funniest part of the film. I'm closer to the latter sentiment, and this montage shows that the character really belongs to Korean-American Jeong, whose performance is both brave and committed.

"Action Mash-Up" is a 30-second montage of action clips from the film. "Three Best Friends Song" (1:20) is an alternate version of Alan's backseat ditty, sparked by Stu's dramatic front seat crooning. "The Dan Band!" (1:08) features the Dan Flannerty-led wedding band performing an abbreviated version of the theme song to Fame, something that is more abbreviated in the film.

Upholding the correlation between a movie and its bloopers, the gag reel (8:15) is highly entertaining. In addition to the actors fighting back laughter, it shows us a number of alternate ad libs.

Stu (Ed Helms) takes a clear interest in Jade the stripper (Heather Graham) in the More Pictures from the Missing Camera gallery. The main menu for the Extreme Edition's Disc 2 (which is really the theatrical cut despite its label) loses the Unrated banner and adds a Special Features menu.

Finally, "More Pictures from the Missing Camera" is what it sounds like, a viewer-navigated gallery consisting of about 95 unused photos from the four guys' wild night on the town. Pay attention to when they start repeating, because it doesn't tell you when you've seen them all.

Sadly, as is often the case, the reinserted scenes exclusive to the Extended Version aren't available to view on their own anywhere on this set.

Disc One, the real extended version, opens with promos for Blu-ray, Terminator Salvation, Four Christmas, Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, and Splode Soda (i.e. not tobacco).

This DVD is no more extreme than any other Warner one when it comes to menus. Like all of the studio's newest DVDs, this one features static screens, all of which are silent save for the scored main menu.

The set's one new inclusion is a tangible extra. The Unseen Wedding Album is a 28-page hardbound book of glossy color photos. The "candid" pictures stem not only from Stu's forgotten chapel ceremony,
but also from the boys' general rowdy Las Vegas hijinks, which have them run into two of the city's celebrity performers (Wayne Newton and Carrot Top). The images are actually quite a bit less racy than some of what's in the film's crowdpleasing closing montage. I don't think there's anything in here that's not either in the movie or the DVD's photo gallery. I'm not sure how much amusement fans of the movie will derive from this companion book (which is the size of a Blu-ray case), but it didn't do much for this one.

One final inclusion comes right on the shrinkwrap itself. It's a unique code for up to $7.50 worth of e-Movie Cash to see Due Date in theaters. This is cross-promotion at its most sensible, although fussing with printers and "participating" theaters can definitely be a hassle. Why not just include seven Susan B. Anthony coins? I kid...

The DVD version doesn't offer everything the Blu-ray does. The Blu-ray's second disc is a soundtrack sampler CD, supplying the following five songs: the instrumental "Theme from The Hangover", "Candy Shop" by Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band, "Who Let the Dogs Out", "Stupid Tiger", and the Academy-robbed "Stu's Song". Ordinarily, I'd say they ought to have just included the full soundtrack itself, but three of these five aren't on that, so I guess this adds worth.

The other major Blu-ray exclusive is that the director and stars' audio commentary on the theatrical cut is presented as picture-in-picture video commentary. It sounds like the only difference is that you see them commenting, as opposed to one of the more substantial and varying Maximum Movie Mode presentations that Warner included on movies like Watchmen and Sherlock Holmes. Reportedly, the Blu-ray disc also offers two exclusives for those who put the time and effort into registering for Warner's BD-Live: a "Cursing Mash-Up" and an Iron Mike Online teaser featuring Mike Tyson.

The DVD and book are packaged side by side inside a thin cardboard box with a folded piece of cardboard making up the difference in height. The only insert in the unslipcovered, standard Eco-Box with tray is an authorization code for Warner's new Insider Rewards program. I tried, but the code doesn't double as a way to unlock the included digital copies that are supposed to expire December 2010. I'm no fan of digital copies, but over 1 GB of disc space went to them instead of the theatrical cut's feature presentation and extras, so it's a shame they're not at least redeemable here.

Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Stu (Ed Helms) get surprised by the police officers whose cruiser they've been driving. Some guys just can't handle Vegas.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though how much you enjoy it will vary, The Hangover is one of those rare comedies that is just about impossible to dislike. Selling this "From the Director of Old School" didn't do much for me, because I've preferred almost every subsequent "Frat Pack" comedy to the one that kind of cemented that clique. But Todd Phillips has improved with each movie he's made and The Hangover is easily his best yet. I'm interested to see if he continues to best himself with Due Date and The Hangover 2.

Among those who won't care for the movie are those with no tolerance for profanity and crude behavior. They'd have no reason to check it out, although the content doesn't get much worse than what the MPAA refers to as "pervasive language." I don't know if The Hangover will age as poorly as many comedies do,
but it strikes me as the kind of unifying landmark of the genre that will long be recognized as important. I'd be surprised if it doesn't soon become a fixture of Top 100 Comedies lists, even something as culturally-minded as an updated AFI countdown.

I'm very happy to have The Hangover in my DVD collection and you might well be too. For being such a huge hit, the film has a kind of modest selection of bonus features, at least compared to the packed sets afforded Judd Apatow's movies. Though the picture book is okay, it provides the Extreme Edition with minimal upgrade value. I think you'd be better off with the original 2-Disc unrated & theatrical DVD, which a price cut has knocked below $20 even with pitiful discounting. Your other option is the movie-only theatrical cut disc which Amazon is now selling for barely half as much. If you're into Blu-ray, the Extreme Edition becomes even less appealing, since the original two-cut BD is currently selling for barely one-third the price of the hi-def version of this new set. You will, however, miss out on the free or discounted Due Date movie ticket and the Blu-ray-only soundtrack sampler.

Buy The Hangover from Amazon.com: Extreme Edition DVD / Extreme Edition Blu-ray /
Movie-Only Theatrical DVD / Theatrical & Unrated SE DVD / Theatrical & Unrated Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

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The League: The Complete Season One • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 5
Zach Galifianakis: Youth in Revolt • G-Force • Operation: Endgame • Into the Wild
Bradley Cooper: New York, I Love You • Yes Man • He's Just Not That Into You • The Comebacks
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Written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore: Four Christmases • Ghosts of Girlfriends Past • Chicken Little
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The Hangover Songs List (in order of use): El Vez - "It's Now or Never", Danzig - "Thirteen", The Donnas - "Take It Off", Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing", T.I. (featuring Rihanna) - "Live Your Life", Baha Men - "Who Let the Dogs Out", Usher featuring Ludacris and Lil Jon - "Yeah!", The Cramps - "Fever", Mickey Avalon featuring Dirt Nasty & Andre Legacy - "What Do You Say?", Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps - "Wedding Bells (Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine)", Phil Collins - "In the Air Tonight", Ed Helms - "Stu's Song", Treat Her Right - "Rhythm and Booze", Bill Withers - "Grandma's Hands", The Belle Stars - "Iko Iko", Wolfmother - "Joker and the Thief", Zach Galifianakis - "Three Best Friends", Revolution Mother - "Ride the Sky II", Dan Finnerty - "Candy Shop", The Dan Band - "Fame", Flo Rida - "Right Round"

The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
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Original Music Plus Dialogue Clips:
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Reviewed October 18, 2010.



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