Thursday, May 26, 2011
"The Hangover Part II" (2011)
I don't mind that it suffers from sequelitis, that it's the exact same premise and a total retread. I do mind that it's not nearly as gut-busting and hilarious as it could and should be. Todd Phillips' "The Hangover Part II" is an obvious attempt to one-up the original but not in the necessary ways. Banking on the resounding popularity and box office success of its predecessor, Phillips and his team shoot for something bigger and badder in the sequel. I get it. More debauchery. You have to outdo the original. But while putting focus on pushing the limits of the MPAA R-rating, you also have to remember to bring the funny.
If you've seen the first one--which I'm sure you have--then you know the setup. And if you haven't seen it, then ask a friend. They've seen it. The sequel takes place a few years or so later, and now it's Stu's (Ed Helms) turn to get married. The wedding is to take place in Thailand because that's where the parents of his beautiful bride-to-be, Lauren (Jamie Chung), are from. Stu invites his buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to the wedding, but he refuses to invite Doug's socially unbearable and incompetent brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Can you blame him? The guy unwittingly roofied them in Vegas. After some convincing, the third member of the wolfpack is tacked on, and they fly to the other side of the world for another night they'll never remember.
The pre-hangover sequences are great, especially a fancy dinner party where Lauren's father (Nirut Sirichanya), who admittedly doesn't like Stu, compares him to tasteless and mushy rice that you feed to infants and old people. You see, he has high standards. His son, Teddy (Mason Lee), is a 16-year-old prodigy, a pre-med student at Stanford and a brilliant cello player. Then cue Alan's toast which is a heaping pile of clueless passive-aggression and bumbling idiocy, his trademark brand that we've come to know from the first go around. Here Zach Galifianakis elevates it to an art, and contrary to what you might expect, this schtick isn't old yet. He keeps it consistently humorous throughout and delivers some of the best bits.
But that's part of the problem. Alan was the seasoning to the already savory meat in "The Hangover," but now he's the only spice to an otherwise bland meal. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms still have fine chemistry with Galifiankis, and in any other circumstances they'd be hilarious. But lacking creativity, Todd Phillips and his writers don't provide the actors with sufficient enough comic situations and material to work with leaving only Alan's stupid one-liners warranting chuckles.
They head to the beach with Teddy for just one beer--sealed bottles with no way of being tampered with--and, you know the drill, regain consciousness in a sleazy and dirty Bangkok hotel room oblivious as to how they got there. Stu has a Mike Tyson tattoo on his face, Alan's head is shaved, Teddy is missing except for his severed finger donning a Stanford class ring and a monkey falls from the rafters and hangs out with the group for, like, no reason. Cute animals are way better than babies, am I right? Talk about blatant one-upmanship of the original. Instead of needing to find Doug, they need to find Teddy. And, geez, they're in Bangkok, for goodness sake! The stakes sure are raised.
And when the backtracking through Bangkok begins, things immediately get more dangerous, violent and needlessly over-the-top. I understand kicking up the ante, but let's not overdo it. I laughed occasionally, but I was more often cringing, feeling uncomfortable and worrying about the safety of our hungover heroes. I became distracted by the comedy's unrelenting desire to make something wilder than its predecessor, which was pitch-perfect as is. Ken Jeong returns as the batshit crazy criminal Mr. Chow who essentially becomes an honorary member of the wolfpack thanks to Alan, and because of it he becomes generously overused. That is unlike Paul Giamatti who makes an appearance as a tough-talking crime boss and nearly steals the show. Hidden comic capability such as this is only fleetingly used.
In "The Hangover," the end credits really capped off what was 2009's summer comedy smash hit. Now in "The Hangover Part II," using the same photos gimmick, the end credits are as hilarious as they were a first time but also a moment of lament realizing it's what the rest of the movie had the potential to be.
My review of The Hangover