Monday, May 30, 2011

"The Hangover Part II" (2011)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galafianakis
Written by Todd Philips, Scot Armstrong and Craig Maizin
Directed by Todd Philips
Rated R - Nudity, language, violence, sexuality, drug use
Running Time: 102 minutes

Remember in "Die Hard 2" when John McClane is fighting all those terrorists, and the entire movie grinds to a halt so he can say, "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?"

Yeah, that's pretty much "The Hangover Part II."

The Wolfpack is back: Stu (Ed Helms) is marrying a woman named Lauren (Jamie Chung) and has invited his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Zach Galafianakis) to Thailand for the wedding. Two days before the ceremony, Stu and the others, including Lauren's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee) decide to have some drinks and a bonfire on the beach at the hotel.  Predictably, Stu, Phil and Alan wake up the next morning in a strange place with no memory of what happened to them the previous night.  Teddy is missing, and Doug is back at the hotel, having seemingly missed out on the night's shenanigans.

The trio attempt to piece together what happened, hoping it will help them find Teddy, who is apparently missing a finger (which should be a big deal since he's a musical prodigy and will study to be a surgeon).  Along the way they run afoul of old acquaintances like Chow (Ken Jeong, reprising his role from the original film) and new characters like a foul-mouthed tattoo artist (Nick Cassavetes), Chow's rival Kingsley (Paul Giamatti) and shemale prostitutes.  They also manage to pick up a drug dealing pet monkey.  With danger at every turn, the Wolfpack must retrieve Teddy and get back to Thailand in time for the wedding.

"The Hangover Part II" is decently funny, to be sure, but in general is a total disappointment.  It's the worst kind of sequel: the kind that simply remakes and rehashes the original, and goes even further by continually referencing the original as a source of comedy.  Too many of the jokes in "Hangover 2" are comedy by association, with the characters spouting some variation on "how can this happen to us again?"  Doing so once would have been fine, cute even, but to do so again and again throughout the film is just lazy screenwriting.  Instead of coming up with a new joke, the film simply says, "Remember when you laughed at this before?  Yeah, just do that again."

"Hangover 2" references the original multiple times, but it also follows every single plot point from the original, almost to a T.  Instead of finding a baby, Alan adopts a small monkey.  The baby masturbation joke from the original film?  Here the monkey likes to put 'weenis' in its mouth.  Later on, it turns out that the gang had at some point been in possession of something the gangster needs, which will lead to a trade that won't go the way they planned, leaving the characters dejected and downtrodden until one of them randomly pieces together where their missing friend actually is.  In the first film, this was a bag full of cash owed to Chow; here, it's a bank code Chow was supposed to deliver to Kingsley.  Oh, and if you believe that Alan isn't responsible for the guys' memory loss a second time, you're a sucker.

The film goes through these paces over and over again.  If you've seen "The Hangover," then "The Hangover Part II" offers no surprises whatsoever.  Worse, while the first was a sort of candy-colored, crass but ultimately rather sweet comedy, "Hangover 2" is grimy, sweaty and somewhat mean-spirited.  In the first film, while there was some element of danger from Chow's goons, it rarely felt like the worst thing that could happen to these characters was showing up late for Doug's wedding.  Here, the characters are often put in mortal danger, even at one point causing a riot that destroys a building and prompts the arrival of Bangkok's brutal riot police.  The Alan character, who in the first film just sort of lived in his own little world with absurd assumptions about the way things work, here is downright cruel.  His sorta-sweet awkwardness has been replaced by a mean streak that's far less humorous.

Despite all this, "The Hangover Part II" is decently funny.  Certainly, it's not that this is a bad film, it's just a lazy one. There are some great lines in there, and some of the more outrageous moments are really funny, no matter that they're unoriginal.  A car chase about two-thirds of the way through is pretty fun, especially the bit with the pig, and a visit to a monastery provides a flashback that's so bizarrely absurd that you have to laugh.  The cast still has that great chemistry; Cooper can still grab hold of the screen and not let go when he wants, though Ed Helms seems to take center stage more often than Cooper in this one. 

"The Hangover Part II" isn't bad, but it is a massive missed opportunity.  It's alright, but nothing special.  It recycles too many jokes and plot points from the original to stand on its own.  Honestly, I have to call this one a rental unless you're absolutely intent on seeing it immediately.  But really, you'd probably just have a better time watching the first one again.

Or you could go see "Bridesmaids."

See Also
The A-Team
Die Hard 2