The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips (based on characters created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore)
Stars: Bradley Cooper (Phil), Ed Helms (Stu), Zach Galifianakis (Alan), Justin Bartha (Doug), Ken Jeong (Mr. Chow), Paul Giamatti (Kingsley), Mason Lee (Teddy), Jamie Chung (Lauren), Nirut Sirichanya (Lauren’s Father), Mike Tyson (Himself), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Sasha Barrese (Tracy), Gillian Vigman (Stephanie), Aroon Seeboonruang (Monk), Nirut Sirichanya (Fohn), Yasmin Lee (Kimmy)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2011
Country: U.S.
The Hangover Part II
The Hangover Part IIMore “Redux” than “Part II,” Todd Phillips’ sequel to his 2009 smash hit The Hangover (still the highest grossing R-rated comedy on record) dutifully recreates the original’s narrative structure, from the opening phone call when all seems lost right down to the montage of digital photos during the closing credits that fill in the remaining gaps. The basic question--“What the hell happened last night!?!”--is exactly the same, with only minor variations in the borderline surreal sub-questions: Instead of “Where did that tiger come from?,” the question is now “Where did that capuchin monkey come from?” Instead of “How did Stu lose a front tooth?,” it is now “Why did Stu get that facial tattoo?” And, instead of our three bumbling heroes wondering what happened to a groom-to-be and searching frantically for him in the sun-scorched environs of Las Vegas, they are wondering what happened to a 16-year-old brother-in-law-to-be and searching frantically for him in the seamy, crowded bustle of Bangkok, Thailand. Same song, only slightly different lyrics.

The Hangover was an undeniably funny and raucous comedy that made good on an old premise by sheer force of will. Unfortunately, that tends to only work once. The Hangover Part II doesn’t even try to muster any originality or deviation from the formula; the mantra of screenwriters Craig Mazin (Superhero Movie) and Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip) seems to be, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The only problem is that the first movie wore out its premise by the final reel, so essentially recreating it in a different setting with only the slightest of variations means that Part II wears itself out much, much sooner.

All the major characters from the first movie are back: Would-be alpha dog Phil (Bradley Cooper), inhibited dentist Stu (Ed Helsm), nice guy Doug (Justin Bartha), and perennially passive-aggressive man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who is again along for the ride at the urging of his sister, who is Doug’s wife. This time they are headed for Thailand for Stu’s wedding to the beautiful and amazingly tolerant Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose stern, humorless father (Nirut Sirichanya) loathes Stu and barely attempts to repress his disdain (in his wedding toast, he compares Stu to both his learning-disabled brother and a bowl of mushy rice pudding). Having barely survived Doug’s bachelor party in the first movie, Stu resists even a hint of wild partying, and indeed everything looks like it’s going to be fine as they drink a single beer on the beach by a fire before heading to bed. The next morning, however, Phil, Stu, and Alan wake up face-down in a scummy back-alley hotel in Bangkok with no memory of what happened the night before. Lauren’s teenage brother Teddy (Mason Lee), a brilliant premed student at Stanford and his father’s pride and joy, is missing, although his severed finger has been left behind in a cup of water.

After that, it’s off to the races as the guys have just over 24 hours to locate Teddy and get back to the posh seaside resort where the wedding is to take place. Just like the first movie, they must figure out the previous night’s antics, and each scene reveals a new piece of the puzzle. Reliably inappropriate shenanigans ensue, and because this is a sequel to an already raunchy and boundary-pushing comedy, all the jokes have to be a little more crude, a little more deviant, and a little more in your face. The Hangover worked because it strode right up the line, but never quite crossed it. The Hangover Part II, on the other hand, has to cross that line a few times, if only to distinguish itself because everything else about it is pretty much interchangeable with the original.

The characters are also a little more crass this time around, which means that they are less sympathetic and likeable, even when finding themselves in the most dire of circumstances, whether it be dealing with the return of the absurd international gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), facing down a vicious mobster played by Paul Giamatti, or getting pummeled by a Buddhist monk for interrupting a meditation session. The setting in Bangkok ups the ante by placing the guys in a truly foreign location that is rife with crime, organized and otherwise, but it has the overall effect of just making the film feel grimy (it does allow for Alan to make some hilariously culturally insensitive comments, though). The movie certainly has its moments, and there are a few choice bits that work marvelously (I’m thinking particularly about Stu’s impromptu cover of Billy Joel’s “Allentown,” except this time it’s “Alan Town” and the lyrics are all about how Alan has, again, ruined his life). Aside from those bits, though, The Hangover Part II is little more than a repetitive, desperate sequel, the very definition of unnecessary.

Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick

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Overall Rating: (2)

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