Hangover Part II, The (Review)

HANGOVER PART II, THE
(5/26/11; Comedy)
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Jamie Chung, Bryan Callen, Mason Lee
SCR: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong, Craig Mazin
DIR: Todd Phillips
MPAA: R for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images.
1 hour 42 mins

“Part II” suggests a continuation, an ongoing tale with new details that build onto what has already been discovered. “Part II” has been associated with franchises that have indeed told stories bridging several films: The Godfather Part II, Back to the Future Part II, etc. But this movie isn’t a sequel to The Hangover so much as a remake.

Four guys: one is getting married, the others wake up the morning after the greatest night of partying ever. They now have a wild animal, a lost mate, and a set of contrivances that ultimately find them jumping through hoops to recover said lost mate, as the missing pieces grow more and more outrageous. There are shocking discoveries and a frequently naked effeminate gangster complicating things.

Sound familiar? But it’s not just the bare bones of the story that are familiar. So are the little details: the reason for blacking out, the surprise location of the missing man, the “we really screwed up” phone call that looks as if a wedding cancellation is imminent, the Ed Helms musical interlude that finds his character nonsensically breaking into song about how bad things are, the “we’re only going to look at the pictures once, then delete them” line before the closing credits roll over images “what really happened.” And you’d better believe Mike Tyson’s going to show up at some point, warbling an ‘80s pop song.

Part of what made the first movie so fresh was the sense of discovery and mystery built around our characters’ lost night in Vegas. Simply switching the setting to the more exotic, dangerous Thailand, but giving us the same exact movie is a cheat. To paraphrase Lewis Black, the movie poster should have been the image of a middle finger drawn in crayon.

Is it funny? Yeah, sure. There are some comic beats that are always going to raise a chuckle. There are occasional inspired bits: a hazy Galifianakis flashback played out with children standing in for the profane grown ups; and the film does boast one incredibly squirm-worthy series of revelations that’s an escalating bit of wrongness that suggests what the movie might have been. Part I actually attempted to say something about the nature of how men relate. When Helms lost his tooth, it was a shocking running gag. But his Tyson-inspired face tattoo this time around loses its sting pretty fast.
Another character loses a finger and carries on as if it’s just another day. When they don’t care, we don’t care.

Clearly, the creative team couldn’t be bothered enough to even try. They knew they were going to make a ton of money, so why should they? By this point, the trio of actors – Helms, Cooper, and Galifianakis – all has their expected tics down pat. Galifianakis gets all the good lines, as expected, and gets to make cute with a little (chain smoking, drug-dealing) monkey. For the second movie in a row, Bartha sits out most of the action. Alas, that means more of Jeong, playing the outrageous gangster Mr. Chow. And when I say more, you should know what I mean.

On the plus side, the movie looks great. If nothing else, director Phillips has traded the familiar glitz of Vegas and traded up (or down) for the scummiest place on Earth to great effect. Thailand looks like it’s filled with nothing but seedy locations – motels, strip joints, tattoo parlors – each grimier than the last. There is an element of danger the first film never quite captured, which makes the absence of an original story all the more frustrating. This movie, with its paint-by-numbers regurgitation, is so lazy, it’s insulting.

My son has watched episodes of Diego that were less predictable. (Warner Bros.)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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