Todd Phillips’s previous big success, ‘Old School’, fell squarely in the frat camp, marrying ’80s-style debauchery with a broad streak of appealingly daft slapstick. ‘The Hangover’ retains the former but ditches the latter in favour of a series of loud, aggressive, increasingly unlikely set-piece gags. An intriguing, time-hopping set-up – a group of friends wake after a Vegas stag party and attempt to piece together the previous night’s activities – is wasted on obnoxious characters, celebrity cameos and crass attempts at humour.
It doesn’t help that the central cast is almost entirely forgettable, from the smug lounge lizardry of Bradley Cooper to the boisterous Jack Black-lite of Zach Galifianakis. A genuine star – Vaughn, Rudd, either Wilson brother – would have made these characters likeable, rather than simply pitiful and tiring. Ironically, the only memorable performance in the film – aside from a lumbering, if entirely appropriate, cameo from Mike Tyson – is given by Heather Graham as a hapless hooker. Her geisha-like docility, contrasted with a vicious, hectoring performance from Rachael Harris as a castrating girlfriend, sums up the film’s prehistoric attitude: women may be cute, but dudes don’t need the hassle.