Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Hangover Part II

The Wolfpack is back and its another around of the craziness that was Hangover original...yup  The Hangover Part II, the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster which finds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) experiencing one more horrible drunken blackout and subsequent mystery. They've traveled to Thailand for Stu's wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung)-- only to find themselves in another pre-wedding predicament. But whether it tops the first -- well the answer is ---- no. Definitely, not.

The original film had an interesting premise and a cast that made up for a funny combination of personalities. We had Bradley Cooper as Phil - roguishly handsome but foul mouthed, self-involved and pretty much a jerk of a fellow; Ed Helms as Stu – not so handsome and more of a “regular guy” who probably hung out with Phil because he’s a “fun guy”; and Alan, played by Zack Galifianakis – the severely socially handicapped, and apparently more than slightly mentally handicapped member of the group.

The original Hangover hit like a bolt from the blue. Good R-rated comedies are few and far between and the 2009 comedy brought enough surprises into its fast-paced narrative that the concept of blending a detective story with raunchy laughs worked like a charm. It’s ironic that The Hangover Part II bases so many of its jokes on shock value and yet clings so dearly to the exact same formula of the original, right down to the plot beats and character actions. More of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the sequel still manages to deliver laughs, but the stale stench of been-there, done-that pervades the entire film despite the vibrant background of Bangkok.

If you’ve seen The Hangover, you’ve essentially seen The Hangover Part II. This time around Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married, the wedding with his bride-to-be (Jamie Chung) will be in Bangkok in deference to her parents, and along for the ride are Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and much to Stu’s chagrin, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Two nights before the wedding, the four guys along with Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee) have a drink only to have the original trio wake up in a seedy hotel room with no recollection of the night’s events, new damages to their appearance, a new animal companion (the tiger has been replaced by an adorable monkey), and Teddy has gone missing. Repeat the shenanigans from the first film but this time it’s in Thailand.
What starts as a tame enough late night toast on the beach with Stu's future brother-in-law Teddy, a teenage musical prodigy and medical student, soon turns into a godawful mess. Alan, Phil and Stu wake up far away in a sleazy Bangkok hotel to find Teddy missing, Alan's head shaved and Stu with a facial tattoo. Just what the hell happened the night before? This is what the guys must figure out if they're to locate Teddy and get Stu to the altar on time.

It’s remarkable the extent to which the sequel grabs everything it can from the original as if it’s terrified that changing even the slightest plot point will throw off fans. On the one hand, I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, and yet I feel like they’ve already been spoiled. Almost every situation in The Hangover Part II has a mirror in the original film and while that can be cute, it can also be disheartening. When it comes to comedy, people don’t want to hear the same jokes. 

Oddly, what the sequel fails to recapture from the original is the pacing. The Hangover had a nice build up, laid the foundations of some good jokes, and then hit a wonderful frenetic pace that kept layering in fresh mysteries against new hijinks while still working in some great jokes. Part II is walking the same path as the original, but at slower pace. It does manage to up the ante and there were moments where the film got some big laughs out of me. But those moments are inconsistent and the film also leaves aside the smaller jokes that helped color the first movie. There’s nothing offhanded and inspired like Alan’s protestation “Hey! There are Skittles in there!”
While in the first film I thought Galifianakis stole the movie, here his character was mostly irritating – while he was clueless and dim-witted in the first film, he had an endearing quality about him. Here, for some reason, they wrote him as a completely obnoxious jerk, and it detracted from the character quite a bit. Ed Helms’ theatrics seemed like they were meant to make Stu the “steal the movie” character, but it was so over the top it actually felt kind of “self-aware”, Phil is still the take-charge leader but his mean-spirited behavior is amplified in the first act only to be almost completely forgotten post-bender. Chow (Ken Jeong) is even more cartoonish.

The first Hangover is one of the most quotable comedies of recent years; not so this time, with Part 2 relying more on sight gags and shock value for some of its most memorable funny moments. This is a much darker and meaner film than the first one, which sort of its more exotic and dangerous setting yet also feels at odds with the goofiness of the overall story. The Hangover Part 2 definitely has its moments and a few big laughs throughout, but the most memorable thing about this second substance-induced amnesia comedy is how ultimately forgettable it is.


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