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The Hangover cover

Blu-ray Reviews: The Hangover

Originally published in Sound and Image, February/March 2010, v.23#04
Last updated 25 February 2013

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The Hangover
2009 - Warner Bros Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris, Mike Tyson, Mike Epps, Jernard Burks, Rob Riggle and Cleo King

Movie: 4.5 Picture: 4.5 Sound: 4 Extras: 3.5

Every year sees the release of some boys-behaving-badly buddy picture, and it often involves Las Vegas. These often make buckets of money at the box office, but are rewarded on the Internet Movie Database with a user rating of maybe 6.5, or possibly 7. Mediocre, in other words. So what to make of a boys-behaving-badly buddy picture that scores 8.0?

The boys in The Hangover do indeed behave badly, as three friends and a prospective brother-in-law head off to Las Vegas for a major league buck's night. Everything is proceeding as you'd expect in a movie of this kind, until they take their first drink. Then, suddenly, it's the next day. The groom-to-be is missing, and their enormously expensive hotel suite is being shared with a baby and a tiger.

The rest of the movie is mystery movie, with madcap elements. The revelations are deftly handled, and what appear to be standard off-the-shelf cardboard buddy characters turn out to have depth and unexpected life in their actions.

I simply didn't expect to find this level of artistry mixed with in with the copious amounts of profanity.

The Blu-ray delivers two versions of the movie: the regular theatrical version (which was rated MA at the Australian cinema) and a longer ('Extended Uncut') version, which runs eight minutes longer and seems to have bumped the censorship rating of the disc up to R (mainly due to the content of the still photos shown at the end), but otherwise doesn't seem to have added much to proceedings.

Warner Bros does seem to be oblivious to videophile complaints, which it attracts very regularly. The main complaints are largely theoretical, based on the relatively low average video bitrates Warner Bros employs. Some have been as low as 12.5Mbps (V for Vendetta), while some other companies push into 30Mbps+ territory. The question has always been: do these low bitrates adversely impact on picture quality?

If Warner Bros was tempted to shoot higher with this disc, it made it hard for itself. The reason is instead of employing the seamless branching used by other companies, it packs both versions of the movies on the disc as entirely separate files. And even then uses only 36GB of the dual layer disc space, leaving more than 8GB quite empty. Had this been used, the video bitrate could have been pushed over 20Mbps very easily. As it is, both versions are around 16.51Mbps.

But I'm not prepared to say that the picture quality suffers as a result. Warner Bros VC1 encodes routinely use quite wide swings of the video bitrate from moment to moment, allocating data bits to the more complex and faster moving sections of the movie. To me both encodes looked very clean and had no obvious artefacts at all.

The theatrical cut comes with a BonusView PIP feature, but this is largely the main cast and director watching the movie and commenting on it. This could have been packaged as an audio-only commentary without significant loss.

But get this anyway, just for the movie alone. It is worth it, and unlike most of its genre, well worth watching at least two or three times.

Running time: 100 minutes (theatrical cut), 108 minutes (extended unrated cut)
Picture: 2.4:1, 1080p24, VC1 @ 16.51Mbps (theatrical cut)
Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1375kbps (core: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps); German, French: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps; English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, German, German for the Hearing Impaired, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Swedish
Extras: 'Extended Uncut' version of movie (108 minutes); BonusView PIP in Theatrical version 480p24, VC1 @ 1.56Mpbs, DD+2.0 @ 192kbps); 5 Featurettes (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 28 mins); Gag Reel (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 8 mins); Slideshow (1080p24, VC1 - 13 mins)
Restrictions: Rated R (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph for the Theatrical Cut was generated by BDInfo 0.5.3:

The Hangover (Theatrical) video bitrate graph

This is the video bitrate graph for the Extended Uncut version:

The Hangover (Extended Unrated) video bitrate graph

And this is the video bitrate graph for the PIP element in the Theatrical version:

The Hangover (Extended Unrated) video bitrate graph

© 2002-2010, Stephen Dawson