Movie Genre Analysis: The Hangover (2009)

The movie Hangover, directed by Todd Phillips and released in 2009, is an adult comedy film. The movie adopts a conventional narrative technique with the addition of a few experimental elements. The plot is based on the idea of a bachelor party trip by a group of friends to Las Vegas. The four friends played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha take up luxury suite in Caesars Palace hotel. They then make a toast for the impending night of fun and frolic. But in the next scene, the narrative takes the audience to the next morning, with the suite and its inhabitants in a total mess. To make matters worse, the soon-to-be bride-groom Doug goes missing as well. As a relic of their adventure in the previous night, there is a Tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the closet.

What is striking about this comedy film is the non-linear narrative sequence employed by the director. By skipping the madness and mayhem of the friends’ night out in Vegas and showing the end result of that night, the director has straight away created suspense in the minds of the audience. This suspense and the secret events contributing to it would be gradually revealed through the rest of the film, making it a consistent and coherent whole. Since the film is a fictitious account of what could happen in Vegas, it does not belong to the documentary film genre.
In the final scene of the movie, the film roll capturing moments of the mystery filled night is played. These pictures act as the missing jig-saw pieces in the narrative gone before and it is this final scene that explains and solves most of the mystery. Although the technique employed by the filmmaker is documentary in this broad sense, the movie as such does not belong to the genre. In other words, The Hangover is a conventional adolescent/adult comedy movie with elements of documentary genre interweaved in it.

While The Hangover is a typical comedy movie, a key distinction has to be made with respect to its targeted audience. Given the use of recreational drugs, alcohol, strippers and the like, this movie is only suited to an adult audience. Usually, most comedy films from the studios of Hollywood tend to be certified for a universal audience, making them appealing to all age-groups. But The Hangover is an exception to this general rule and should be grouped together with films such as American Pie, 40 Year Old Virgin, etc. Apart from this key distinction, the movie satisfies all other expectations of the comedy genre. And it is a familiar genre for director Todd Phillips, who has made similar adult comedies before. Although one could see broad similarities in some of the thematic elements of the story, the idea of a bachelor party gone wrong in Vegas is an original one. Apart from this, the film adopts a time-tested narrative technique of opening with a dramatic sequence that sets up the mystery and suspense; and following it with flashback narrative that reveals and unravels the suspense.

In sum, The Hangover works as a film due to its adherence to conventional plot, narrative and thematic structures of the adult comedy genre. Though there are certain experimental aspects to it, the film cannot be classified as such for lack of radical experimentations on part of the filmmaker. And finally, the originality of the plot, centered on a bachelor party in Vegas, is the most crucial factor behind its critical and popular acclaim.