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Cinema Signal: Far from a green light but has elements of appeal for some audiences.

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. "The Hangover"

The best thing I can say about this buddy comedy is that the story structure by team writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore ("Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") has a touch of mystery and, for that, is clever and promising. The concept of four guys on a bachelor party who awaken (on their first morning in a Las Vegas hotel) to discover their rooms in shambles, a tiger in the bathroom, a chicken clucking around the mayhem and no memory of what happened to explain it all. And, none of them even saw the prostitute that high-tailed it out of there before any of them were fully restored to consciousness.

Oh, and one more thing that seems to have gone missing: the groom-to-be whom they're here to celebrate with this final fling, one Doug Billings (Justin Bartha). In their semi-stupefied state they realize that he isn't among 'em. He's not there. Gone missing. And, with no memories of what could have led to his disappearance, he's going to be hard to find.

But, sort of led by Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), the band of nutty guys try, and their attempts to piece the previous evening together puts them in contact with the hotel clerk, Mike Tyson (yes, the boxer), with prostitute Jade (Heather Graham) who is, according to Nevada law, the betrothed of dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms), local mobster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), and Alan Garner's (Zach Galifianakis) dim-wit drug dealer.

If only they could find Doug. His bride-to-be is calling pretty regularly as the big day approaches. Why can't he come to the phone? In fact, it all starts with such a call--in a flashforward when they're out on the desert looking for the groom and hiding the fact from her.

It would all be a howl if it weren't so insistent and awkwardly directed by Todd Phillips, who honed his taste for this kind of humor with such credits as "Frat House," "Road Trip" and "Starsky & Hutch." Ripe as a comedy of errors, the parts are written in such a way that it doesn't quite become fully engaging if you're bothered by scenes that go flat and an idea that gets overworked. Of course, I realize that by seeing the negatives as outweighing the positives, I'm in the minority on this, and I'm all for the good natured fun many will get out of this "Hangover."

While editing has something to do with the uneven pacing and scenes that have the feel of being worked out (like they shot the rehearsal), don't blame editor Debra Neil-Fisher. You can't do much more with the footage than what's on it.

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The DVD (Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Blu-ray (Unrated Edition)
The Soundtrack

If you're wondering what the former heavyweight champ is doing here, well, maybe it had something to do with the soundtrack, which features performances by The Dan Band and Mike Tyson.

The payoff for what becomes a strain on our patience comes at the end... the very end... when, accompanying the credits, we finally see what happened the night before. This plays out with more hilarity and belly-laugh satisfaction than we saw in the movie, leaving you topped off with the feeling of rich amusement. But that would only be your own loss of memory over the stuff that didn't quite work.

Summing up: the mystery/comedy concept was great; the execution uneven; the whole not terrible but also not as good as some people are saying. If a bachelor party bender is your thing, you've got company. I didn't say taste.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Bachelor party eve. On the roof, before the roofies.

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