Last week, you heard me whine about how fried I was after finishing the draft of my MS.  In reward, I’ve taken a week off to detox, ventured outside my cave to go to a movie.  Since it was hubby’s turn to pick, I found myself jostling in a packed theater to see The Hangover.

I’ll get it right out there.  I did not have high hopes for this movie.  It was a cross between two dissecated genres in comedy: the road trip and the bachelor party.  Infantile jokes about poop and plenty of bared womanly flesh were all but certain.

But I like Ed Helms (The Office) and Bradley Cooper (Alias), and what the hell anyway, maybe there’d be, like, five gut-busting jokes and that would be four more than in the wretched Observe and Report, the last movie my husband got to pick.

Three minutes into the opening setup, I was completely sold on the story, the characters, and on tenterhooks wondering how the problems would resolve.

The movie starts with the black moment, or the moment of crisis, when everything looks bleakest.  A beautiful wedding venue and an anxious bride are juxtaposed with a cracked-out Bradley Cooper in the middle of a desert with a busted car, three thrashed compadres, relating the news that the groom has gone missing from their Vegas bachelor party and that he’s not going to make the wedding after all.

The narration unspools from there.  It’s a classic peeling back the layers storyline, with the added zest of clever writing, perfect comic timing from a competent cast, and lunatic scenarios.  The guys wake up in a trashed hotel room with the random detritus of a banging party that must have taken place there: a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a missing tooth, a hospital wristband and a missing groom.  The movie retraces the last 48 hours, putting together the disparate pieces in a clever and hilarious way until by the end of the movie it makes perfect sense that a tiger would be in the bathroom.

Oh, and Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, an Asian gangstah, takes a gay stereotype and makes the character the officially funniest supporting character in filmdom.  Oscar-worthy comes to mind.

I will say that the women are little more than ciphers and play inconsequential roles.  This is clearly a guy’s movie.

The Hangover is a great example of how an atypical narration can take a cliched storyline and make it seem fresh. By starting with the black moment, tension was sustained in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with a standard narration.  I’m going to give that technique a whirl on a project sooner rather than later.

About Kathleen Bolton

Kathleen Bolton is co-founder of Writer Unboxed. She writes under a variety of pseudonyms, including Ani Bolton. She has written two novels as Cassidy Calloway: Confessions of a First Daughter, and Secrets of a First Daughter--both books in a YA series about the misadventures of the U.S. President's teen-aged daughter, published by HarperCollins, and Tamara Blake, for the novel Slumber.