DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Hangover: Unrated - Two-Disc Special Edition

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  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    The Hangover

    Directed By: Todd Phillips

    Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifanakas, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle


    Studio: Warner

    Year: 2009

    Rated: R

    Film Length: 100 minutes (Theatrical), 108 Minutes (Unrated)

    Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Release Date: December 15, 2009

    The Film ****

    In The Hangover, friends Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) and oddball future brother-in-law Alan (Galifinakis) set out to throw Doug (Bartha) a bachelor party he will never forget. Cut to the morning after, and they find themselves awaking in a trashed suite in Caesar's Palace. None of them have any memory of the night's events, and most distressing of all, they cannot find the groom. Phil, Stu, and Alan must piece together the events of the previous night from a set of clues so bizarrely funny that they are best left out of this synopsis. In their search for clues to Doug's whereabouts, they encounter several people with whom they crossed paths the previous night including a friendly escort/stripper named  Jade (Graham), a small profane violent Chinese man named Mr. Chow (Jeong), a gung-ho cop (Riggle) and a major sports figure whose identity may have been spoiled in TV commercials but will not be spoiled in this synopsis.

    The Hangover is a unique blend of mystery and vulgar bromantic comedy that proved irresistible to audiences, making it the surprise hit of the summer. Its amnesiac premise allows audiences to sympathize with the juvenile antics of the man-children at its center since they are continually shocked, confused, and punished for each of their bad decisions they made during their night of debauchery. Men behaving immaturely is the foundation of many a disappointing comedy, but between this film and, too a lesser degree, his earlier film Old School, Director Todd Phillips has found a way to put a fresh spin on overgrown fratboy antics.

    The risk when producing a comedy that, as is the modern fashion, incorporates shocking vulgarity into its plot, is that the filmmakers will decide that shockingly gross material is sufficiently funny on its own merits. The less revealed about the events of this film, the better, so I will use one of the few staples of vulgar comedy that this film does not incorporate to illustrate my point: the fart joke. When a film presents characters actively breaking wind and expects the audience to laugh, at best it may generate a few chuckles and be useful as an IQ screener for the audience. When a context is created where a character is either unaware, embarassed, or falsely blamed for their public flatulence, the audience will identify with the character and laugh harder. In short, The Hangover works because the characters are metaphorically embarassed to learn how much they have been breaking wind. [Here endeth Ken's "Flatulence Comedy Manifesto"]

    Despite not initially looking like they belong in the same frame together, the three leads have terrific chemistry. They also deserve a great deal of credit for underplaying their reactions to the escalatingly absurd series of events they encounter in their day and a half investigation into what they did over one night. The opening act that introduces them makes no effort to make them likeable, but by the end of the film, the viewer is firmly in their corner. Bradley Cooper's Phil reveals himself to be nearly all bluster.  Ed Helms' milquetoast Stu comes to terms with his inner wild man and develops a backbone.  Galifinakas' Alan, well, he pretty much remains the idiot man-child he was at the beginning, but he is absurdly funny without mugging or active attempts at scene stealing.

    From a technical standpoint, the film gets maximum production value out of its many Las Vegas locations, and the production designers do a great job of reproducing the appropriately opulent, barren, and/or sleazy Vegas vibe.

    The film is presented in two different flavors on this two-disc DVD release. The "Unrated Cut" is eight minute longer than the "Theatrical Cut". There is nothing I noticed in the additional eight minutes that would have prevented the film from getting the "R" rating received by the "Theatrical Cut". Most of the deleted scenes appear to be trims for time/pacing, including extended conversations at the beginning and ending of the film in which Jeffrey Tambor's father of the bride character discusses his Mercedes, a more elaborate demonstration of how Phil is aggressively scamming his students for field trip money he plans to actually use in Vegas, a longer speech by Phil as prelude to their toast to a "night they will never forget", and a moment with the three leads, a dangerous animal, and a family on an elevator in Caesar's Palace. The Mercedes scene at the end actually helps to explain why Tambor's character is not more upset about the events of the film, but this is a minor plot point that does not really merit such a long expository scene even thought the actors play it well. In general, I preferred the tighter, just as raunchy "Theatrical Cut", and would rather have just seen the unrated cut additions as "deleted scenes".

    The Video *** (Unrated Cut) **½ (Theatrical Cut)

    The "Theatrical Cut" appears on a DVD-9 along with the digital copy and all of the special features. Typical of recent Warner DVDs of new release theatrical titles, it looks pretty bit-starved and is riddled with digital video artifacts, aliasing, and other defects that make it not hold up well to large screen viewing. The "Unrated Cut" appears on a separate DVD-5 with no extras beyond a series of skippable promos. It appears to have marginally better compression than the theatrical cut with less MPEG noise. It has more than its share of artifacts, though, and will likely still be a disappointment to viewers watching on large displays.

    The Audio ***½

    The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a good job of repurposing the film's fairly plain theatrical mix for a home environment with very good fidelity. The mix generally focuses on the front audio hemisphere, but the surrounds and LFE are occasionally used for effect when slapstick mayhem ensues. The "Unrated Cut" of the film includes an alternate French Dolby Digital 5.1 dub. The "Theatrical Cut" of the film includes both French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs.

    The Extras ***

    Note: while I have tried to avoid significant spoilers in my review so far. There are inherent spoilers in even the names of some of the special features, so consider yourself warned if you have not yet seen the film.

    Disc One

    There are no special features on the first disc, but when the viewer first spins it up, they are greeted with the following series of skippable promos. All are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below:
    • Warner Blu-Ray Promo (16:9 enhanced video - 1:43)
    • Terminator Salvation DVD/BD Trailer (2:24)
    • Four Christmases DVD/BD Trailer (2:24)
    • Batman: Arkham Asylum Video Game Trailer (1:55)
    • Anti-Smoking PSA that parodies Mountain Dew and energy drink commercials (1:01)

    Disc Two

    Disc Two contains the theatrical cut of the film, a digital copy of the film compatible with iTunes or Windows Media, and all of the special features which are listed below. Video-based features are presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound:

    Commentary by Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifanakis, Ed Helms, and Todd Phillips is a surprisingly dull affair given the comedy credentials of its partcipants. A lot of time is spent saying how great some person or other was in the film with only occasional moments of interesting behind the scenes information. The most entertaining moments of the commentary are usually when one of the participants eggs Galifanakis to say something after long periods of him being quiet, usually resulting in some silly but amusing jokes or observations. These moments are few and far between. The participants seem awkward at first but eventually get more comfortable as the commentary progresses.

    Map of Destruction is an interactive feature constructed around a menu map of the film's Vegas locations. The map has 13 selectable "hot" spots. Each one features a graphic representing the location and an excerpt of looped dialog from the film. Ten of them also contain links to video featurettes. They break down as follows:
    • The Palms - includes no featurette.
    • Caesars Palace Hotel - includes a featurette that runs 1:35 and includes on-camera comments about the Caesar's Palace location work by Producer Dan Goldberg, Director Todd Phillips, Production Designer Bill Brzeski, and actor Ken Jeong
    • Strip Club - includes a 1:07 featurette in which Heather Graham and Ed Helms discuss their characters and their relationship
    • Jail - Includes a 1:18 featurette in which actor Rob Riggle improvises in character about his own personal experience with tasers.
    • Mercedes Left on Strip includes no featurette
    • The Bellagio Hotel includes no featurette
    • Caesars Palace Suite includes a :50 featurette in which actor Bradley Cooper, Helms, and Property Master Russell Bobbitt discuss the morning after hotel suite set
    • Best Little Wedding Chapel - includes a 1:09 featurette in which Helms and Graham discuss each other and their characters.
    • Desert Lot Mr. Chow - includes a 2:01 featurette in which Ken Jeong improvises in character as Mr. Chow in an interview.
    • Hard Rock Hotel and Casino - includes a :42 featurette in which Ken Jeong improvises in character further with some additional comments from actor Zach Galifanakis
    • Best Little Wedding Chapel - includes a 1:09 featurette in which Helms and Graham discuss each other and their characters.
    • Riviera Casino - includes a 1:52 featurette in which Cooper, Helms, Phillips, Casino Dealer Keith Lyle, Galifanakis, Brzeski, and Graham discuss the card counting sequence.
    • Hospital - includes a :41 featurette in which Cooper, Helms, and Galifinakis speculate about why Cooper's character had to go to the hospital.
    • Mike Tyson's House - includes a 1:25 featurette in which Brzeski, Helms, Galifanakis, and Cooper discuss the Tyson house set and on-set anecdotes about Boxer Mike Tyson

    The Madness of Ken Jeong (7:55) - Is a collection of alternate takes and improvised lines from Ken Jeong's various scenes in the movie. It lives up to its title and is pretty entertaining.

    Action Mash-Up (:35) is a montage of action clips from the film.

    Three Best Friends Song (1:23) Is an outtake sequence of the three lead actors improvising a song while driving, the last part of which featuring Galifanakis was used in the film.

    The Dan Band! (1:07) is the complete performance of "Fame" by The Dan Band which was partially featured near the conclusion of the film.

    Gag Reel (8:15) is a collection of flubbed lines, corpsing, and other on-set goofs. It is a bit funnier than average for such features, especially during a run-through of multiple improvised insults between Helms and Galifanakis, but still not the kind of thing a viewer is likely to watch twice.

    More Pictures from the Missing Camera is a stills gallery with 100 images from the "missing camera", most of which are in addition to the images that were used in the closing title sequence of the movie

    Packaging

    The DVDs are packaged in an Amaray-sized "Eco-box" case with a hinged tray allowing it to accomodate both discs. The hard case is in turn covered by a cardboard slipcase which reproduces the art of the hard case with foil enhancements and additional text touting the presence of a digital copy. The only interior insert is a sheet with the code necessary to unlock the digital copy.

    Summary ****

    The Hangover is a unique blend of mystery and vulgar bromantic comedy that works well thanks to both its bulletproof premise and the commitment of its lead actors. It is presented on this two-disc special edition DVD in both "Theatrical" and "Unrated" cuts, both of which receive disappointing video presentations that will not hold up well on large displays. The "Theatrical Cut" is my preferred version of the film, but the "Unrated Cut" has slightly better (read "less bad") video. Extras are plentiful, but not especially deep, and include a digital copy compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media.

    Regards,

     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Easily the funniest film of the year!
     
  3. Shane D

    Shane D Supporting Actor

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    so i just read that the digital copy is windows only wmv. no itunes/mac love. anyone else verify this?
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Not true. Put disc two (the one with the theatrical cut) in a DVD-ROM drive and it shows up in iTunes. On the back of the box, it says "Compatible with iTunes (Except in Mexico)".
     
  5. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    By the way, there is also a single disc release of the film that has both a widescreen and fullscreen version of the theatrical cut on a single dual layered disc that also touts a "digital copy". It is possible that that one is Windows Media only.

    Regards,
     

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