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With the home-run hitting introduction of The Hangover series four years ago, a window of opportunity has presented itself for comedy writers and directors to take advantage of such a crowd-pleasing premise. Perhaps it is unjustified to consider the franchise’s material as exploited by other filmmakers wanting to bank on its success, but a major part of the proliferation of The Hangover-style comedy genre is because the 2009 original provided such an abundance of inspiration that The Hangover films are found to be gold-standard contributors to the comedy genre.
From vulgar bromance turkeys like I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell to half-baked hogs like Hot Tub Time Machine to prize-winning stallions like Bridesmaids, these preposterous party-themed movies have demonstrated that mixing the same ingredients can yield different side-effects. The ingredients being the fun the cast has with each other, the outrageous situations the characters find themselves in, and the ironic twists the movie takes whenever a protagonist commits to a final decision, responsible or reckless. Regardless of the angle you look at it, the comic material and its effectiveness is mostly buoyed by the ability of the actors.
More specifically, a direct result the series has had is it’s endowed a uniformly B-level cast with A-list talent, which includes Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Before their Hangover notoriety, however, the three leads, all had remarkably middle-of-the-road Hollywood careers.
Cooper and Galifiankis, who both debuted as actors playing small parts in 2001 in Wet Hot American Summer and Corky Romano, respectively, have the most experience in the spotlight. The other member, Helms, got his first taste in 2003 in Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story. Of the three, Cooper is the only one to have managed to be in a film that grossed more than $100 million before The Hangover.
In fact, it was in the $285 million box-office comedy Wedding Crashers where Cooper seemed to become more noticed for his flair for humor than anything else. Following the 2005 raunchy Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson vehicle, Cooper found himself exercising his skill in the genre in movies like Failure to Launch, Yes Man, and All About Steve en route to playing his niche role as Phil in the 2009 $467 million feature. Since then, he has gained even more attention and credibility by playing numerous lead roles in films, including Silver Linings Playbook which earned him a Best Actor nomination in 2012.
Galifianakis and Helms, on the other hand, started out as actors who played roles with names that included Weird Wally, Hobo Louie, No. 2, and Turtleneck. But after their turn out in ’09, their concern was more focused on whether or not their contracts would be of the million-dollar variety. With movies like Due Date and The Hangover Part II, that wasn’t a problem.
Since The Hangover, all three have become more successful, playing larger roles on bigger stages in grander theaters. Everything indicates that the careers of these three will only augment as more offers will be made to them with higher salaries. But no matter the amount of money they make, the venues they perform in, or the different paths they follow, they will always be remembered originally as one thing to us: The Wolfpack.