Nobody likes to start their day with a hangover. It hurts, for starters. There’s also a good chance that if you consumed enough alcohol to have a hangover, you probably lost a chunk or two of the previous night in the process.
That is certainly the case in this week’s aptly named summer comedy, "The Hangover," in which three pals take their soon-to-be-married friend out to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the morning after with the groom missing and no recollection of what happened. Cue the shenanigans. In honor of Todd Phillips' latest release, I’ve assembled this brief list of hangover movies to dull the pain of your misspent evenings.
In the world of literary adaptations on film, Terry Gilliam’s "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" ranks among the best of them. The late journalist/author Hunter S. Thompson’s largely true account of time served in 1971 Las Vegas transfers marvelously well to the big screen, especially with Johnny Depp’s masterful portrayal of the good Doctor. It’s noisy, it’s messy and it’s more than a little bit frightening. It’s also a great film, no matter your state of mind. Trust me though: watch it with a hangover. You’ll put so much effort into figuring out whether the wavy lines on the screen are in the movie or in your own head that you’ll forget about the pain you’re feeling.
"Dude, Where’s My Car?" (2000)
"Dude, where’s my car?" "Where’s your car dude?" So begins the grand adventure of Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott), a pair of shmos who wake up one morning with something worse than a hangover: total clarity accompanied by no memory of the preceding night. Jesse’s car is gone, and neither dude has any idea of where it is. I won’t spoil the movie, but the duo’s search for answers leads to all of the following: an angry transgendered stripper, two German protectors of galactic peace, an ostrich ride, a smoking dog, a giant bikini-clad hot lady alien, and a Continuum Transfunctioner. And Zoltan. Hangover or not, if you can make sense of any of this lunacy then you’re a better person than I.
"Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight" is the only movie in Hollywood history in which you get to see Billy Zane punch his fist through a man’s head. If that’s not enough to sell this as a hangover movie, then we must not be speaking the same language. As campy as the "Tales from the Crypt" TV series was, the feature-length "Demon Knight" serves up a special kind of awful, awful hilarity. It is a priceless work of art in the wide world of crap on film, a Van Gogh amongst crude crayon drawings. See it if you haven’t, hangover preferred.
An oldie but a goodie. How’s this for a premise: stoners Pedro (Cheech Marin) and Anthony (Tommy Chong) are enlisted to drive a van from Mexico to Los Angeles. A van made entirely out of marijuana. Not that the duo possesses the wherewithal to realize their good fortune. In the pantheon of stoner comedies, this is the Holy Bible, the source from which all other stoner comedies flow. It’s loud and obnoxious, and there are great stretches of pure nonsense. You get the feeling while watching it that everyone on set, cast and crew alike, was high the whole time. It’s also pretty much the most a fragile, hungover mind can handle during a rough morning after.
"They Live" (1988)
Oh no! Aliens have infiltrated the human race! And the only way to detect them is with… these chintzy black plastic sunglasses? For serious? The depths of stupidity to which "They Live" descends is epic in its scale, but you can’t go in expecting cinematic excellence when your action hero is former WWF "bad guy" wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Watching the whole film is entirely unnecessary. Just queue up the landmark Piper/Keith David fight scene and feel your pain drain away as you watch two guys who don’t have a hangover show you the true meaning of "absurd."