This is the new standard for excellence in Hollywood. This type of film reflects, as in a Fun House mirror, the early 21st century American character: adolescent, and craving bread-and-circuses. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood's highest art was found in Film Noir--dark, gritty tales of the newly post-Christian soul. Now, sixty-to-seventy years later, and fully and unashamedly carnal, we have Film Cirque, the circus films which revel in American arrested development and the nearly single-minded pursuit of the basest pleasures.
There is no denying the great humor of The Hangover, a tale of a Las Vegas bachelor party that strays far from the usual track of liquor and titty bars, and ends up in a roofies-fueled comic nightmare of (among other weirdness) auto-dental-extraction and insta-parenthood. This is a jester's The Lost Weekend, in which the delirium tremens of four juvenile American males result not from withdrawal, but from the tasers of the clown police. This is the 21st century America in which the terminally sophomoric male can have both his madonna and his whore in a single female soul (played here by a remarkably well-preserved Heather Graham).
That the hero of this American folly should be an obese child molestor is entirely fitting. There is room under the Big Circus Tent of American Uncritical Hedonism for every debauchee. It is a testimony to the cleverness of the script that the audience laughs good-naturedly at the pervert antics of the pedophile character Alan, including his infant masturbation simulacrum. American dysfunction is presented as essentially harmless, the aberrant characters have a joie de vivre which immunizes them against their own stupidity.
The Hangover is well-written, well-directed, well-edited, well-acted and fast-paced freak show comedy. It's a cotton candy movie, the only kind Hollywood still excels at. It dazzles with its demented action, the audience laughs easily at its kOOky characters (you know you have a movie chock full o' kOOks when Mike Tyson, playing himself, seems the epitome of reason)--and when it's over? No thought has been provoked. But there's no point in criticizing The Hangover for its limitations. It's a movie from and about severely limited people, and it must be applauded for its lunatick honesty. This is America, in the Looking Glass.
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