Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Hangover Part II (2011)

So much a repeat of the original that it's nearly criminal to call it a sequel, this painfully derivative, yet sporadically hilarious, follow-up to the 2009 monster hit has the same three guys getting bombed, and accidentally losing a fourth friend in another dangerous, decadent city (this time Bangkok). Ed Helms' Stu is the one getting married this time, not to Heather Graham's "escort," as one might've hoped, but rather a brand-new character, a 10-years-too-young Thai angel with a very serious, demanding father (you're kidding). Once they do the requisite re-team-up, justifying why Stu and Bradley Cooper's Phil would allow the drink-roofying half-psychopath Alan to join them on their trip, they are almost instantly, well, hung-over in a Bangkok hotel room, with Mike Tyson's tatoo on Stu's face and his fiancee's little brother, who came along for the ride, missing, save for his hacked-off finger. The rest of the film, predictably, involves the trio traversing the city, recalling the off-kilter and, sometimes, traumatic events of the previous night.

I've read interviews with the director, Todd Philips, and the writers who, when confronted with the glaringly obvious question, "Why did you make the same damn movie again?", all defend the "mystery element" of the first one, and how they did not want to "betray" that. Pardon my french, but that sounds like some pussy-ass bullshit to me. Clearly the original was this unexpectedly huge, international sensation, clearing something like 400 million+ worldwide, but was the only hope to replicate that sort of universal acclaim to literally xerox the first movie with an Asian backdrop? Basically everyone in the movie speaks English, or is just straight American; among the cast members that pop up on their journey, adding nothing comedically, are Paul Giamatti, Nick Cassavetes, Todd Phillips regular Bryan Callen (not reprising his role from the original), and, of course, the requisite cameo from Phillips himself (who will never top, "I'm here for the gang-bang?"). By removing Heather Graham's escort from the proceedings, they immediately eschew any chance of the film feeling tonally different than the first one, but here, there is never a doubt that a. Stu's prospective wife is a perfect, winning angel, b. her little brother is an innocent, victimized saint and c. everything is definitely going to work out for the best. So, basically, the film follows the same beats around, and everyone, on-screen and off, just tries to replicate what they did (or saw) in the last Hangover.

Which, I must say, actually works, on occasion. Some of the set pieces and gags are just what you'd want them to be; extensions of the first film's style of humor taken to more extreme, humiliating lengths. Where Ken Jeong's crimelord, Mr. Chow, entered the first film buck naked, he is introduced here with a brief scene of Stu and Phil playing with his minuscule penis. And speaking of Mr. Chow, his presence in the film is, easily, one of the comedic highlights of the whole show. Both him and Ed Helms had characters that did have wiggle room for growth, expansion, and further adventures, and they possess the comic energy to make the best of what they are given. Bradley Cooper and, sadly, Zach Galifinakis do not do much in the way of further developing their characters, save for Phil being an even bigger asshole and Alan seeming more like an emotionally-stunted man-child than a dangerously volatile repressed sexual predator. And other returning characters, such as Jeffrey Tambor and, inexcusably, Justin Bartha, are shuffled off to the side and nearly forgotten (Bartha's character's wife seemingly only appears in the film so that the intro can replicate, nearly line-for-line, the opening of the original).

Slightly Recommended for hardcore fans of the original, the cast, and the set-up. I had seen this film before it went on to make 200 million+ worldwide in only 5 days; with the second sequel now a distinct inevitability, I hope that Phillips and his current writer, Craig Mazin, stay true to their word of making the next one completely, thoroughly off-the-rails, and nothing like these two consistently funny, but near-identical pieces of work.

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