“The Hangover”
Warner Bros.
At Showcase and Quality 16

2 out of 5 stars

Todd Phillips has forged for himself a successful career writing and directing movies dedicated to the various follies of the responsibility-resistant, ranging from college students on a mission (“Road Trip”) to nostalgic frat men out to re-stake claim of their youth (“Old School”). This exploration of arrested development has provided material for several movies that epitomize base vulgarity and at the same time are, well, hilariously entertaining.

Yes, Phillips deserves his due when it comes to appealing to an audience’s more unrefined sensibility, but he is usually able to craft something that resembles a relatable theme as well. In his latest picture, “The Hangover,” all the same gags are there – including a lot more penises – but it’s simply not as funny, nor as consequential.

“The Hangover” is the story of Phil (Bradley Cooper, “He’s Just Not That Into You”), Stu (Ed Helms, TV’s “The Office”) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis, “Out Cold”) desperately trying to locate their lost friend in time for his impending nuptials, in the wake of the world’s worst hangover. (Or perhaps after the world’s best night of partying, depending on who you ask.) The trouble is they can’t remember a thing.

Waking up in their Las Vegas suite with a tiger in the bathroom and an unknown baby in the closet, panic ensues in their quest to find their friend. Hilarity does not. The baby is used specifically and exclusively as a prop — jokes include banging his head into a stolen cop car and moving his hand to insinuate baby masturbation. The tiger, it turns out, is stolen from Mike Tyson.

Cooper, who shined in a supporting role in “The Wedding Crashers,” remains entertaining as the perpetually unsatisfied dick of the group, though he’s limited by a surprisingly unfunny script by “Ghost of Girlfriends Past” co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Helms and Galifianakis are also enjoyable in their respective roles as a ‘pussy-whipped’ dentist and painfully awkward fat guy.

The movie isn’t responsible for upholding high cinematic quality, for dire implications aren’t at stake. Rather, its main problem is that capably funny and talented actors are being wasted. The movie relies too greatly on the sensational – like children stun-gunning adults in the face – rather than witty dialogue. Even Todd Phillips’s cameo in the movie – he invariably pops up in each picture as some sort of priceless deviant – is hardly amusing.

There was once a time when a clever series of puns would have an audience in stitches. But, alas, Groucho’s day has passed. More recently, cinder blocks tied to the male genetalia (and the subsequent havoc certain to follow such a set up) would cause laughs. But apparently “Old School” ’s day has passed too.

“The Hangover” relies on air humping a tiger, a nude captive attacking his unknowing captors and the full moon of a particularly wrinkly and fleshy old man. There are laughs in the movie, there’s no question about that. But it falls considerably short of the satisfying comedy that Phillips and these talented actors are capable of.

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