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Non-Review Review: The Hangover, Part II

“It happened again,” Phil whines over the phone to his buddy’s wife during the opening sequence of The Hangover, Part II. Of course it did, that’s the entire point of the sequel. The movie unashamed offers fans pretty much what they might expect from the sequel to a relatively high concept comedy: “more of the same.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing – moments of the film had me rolling around from side to side to side, attempting to figure out if it was hilarious or just plain wrong – but it does mean the film lacks a lot of the originality and sense of freshness that made the first one such a beloved comedy classic.

Bangkok Dangerous?

When the first film arrived, it seemed to come from nowhere. Sure, the advance word of mouth on the movie was phenomenal, but it didn’t star any big names and it wasn’t helmed by a famous director. It just sorta snuck up on us, and the surreal lengths of the bachelor party from hell just took us all hugely by surprise. I think that surprise, the sense of the unknown, was a lot of the appeal of the first film. Unfortunately, it’s hard to carry that over to a sequel like this.

The movie is almost slavish to the formula of the original – to the point where, in fairness, it makes several very witty references to how this isn’t the first time this set of characters has partied out of their depth. I do like the touches of continuity and in-jokes that the familiarity affords, with Stu (for example) holding a “bachelor brunch” rather than tempting fate with a bachelor party, and everybody initially hesitant to involve Alan at all, and – even then – trusting him about as far as they can throw him. The three lead performances are fluid and natural, as if the actors are completely at home in the roles, and there’s a genuine sense of – whether Phil and Stu would like to admit it or not – a “wolfpack” vibe.

Club Med(itation)...

However, that same familiarity is the film’s biggest liability. The movie follows the exact same plot as the first one, with the exact same characters and dynamics. The details change, of course, but for most of the set-up it really feels like we’ve seen this movie before. Despite the fact that the cast and crew promised that Justin Bartha would not get lost again, his involvement in the sequel is tangential at best, playing the role of mission control for his three wayward friends. They bump into a variety of unlikely characters, but none of them make quite the impression that Chou did in the original. Fortunately, without spoiling anything, he’s back. And he’s hilarious. Still, it seems a bit of a waste of a trip to Thailand if the funniest character our ensemble encounters came from the original film.

Indeed, The Hangover as a concept is a fairly simple premise, with a tiny amount of room for innovation or elaboration. It’s the story of a bunch of guys forgetting a bachelor party, but need to recover something lost on the night in question. The biggest change the sequel offers is the change in scenery, relocating the action from Los Vegas to Bangkok. The movie does a lot with the scenery change. It actually, in fairness to it, doesn’t compromise or pull any punches. It really is exactly the sort of cheeky, outrageous, hilarious, controversial and out-there sort of comedy we witnessed last time – and the movie isn’t afraid to push just a little bit further in terms of tastelessness. I laughed. I laughed a lot. The sequences are funny and entertaining.

Three men and a little monkey...

Of course, it’s not a film for those concerned about unfair stereotypes surround Bangkok, or those worried about political correctness. It’s a movie about a bunch of Americans who get drunk and drugged off their heads, and cause all manner of ridiculous tasteless trouble in a nation they don’t understand or respect. That’s the entire point. I can see a minor controversy or two popping up about how Thailand is portrayed, but that’s sort of the entire point of the film. If the trip abroad were rendered in good taste, it wouldn’t be the sequel to The Hangover.

And the movie does actually allow its characters to carry the film. Character-based comedy is very rare in these sorts of crass and politically incorrect comedy, but it’s amazing how much comedy does come from the three characters we know and love. I especially like a sequence, about half way through, where we see Alan’s memories of the night. Without spoiling anything, I think it explains a lot about how Alan acts, and how he sees his best friends. It’s a credit to the three leads that it works as well as it does.

Going out with a Bang?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t won over by the ending. I really don’t want to go into spoilers too much, but sufficed to saw that everybody seems far too satisfied with how things turned out. Especially when one considers the consequences of the events in question for the individual affected. It seems a bit much, as the film does, to treat it as a defining moment for another character – it’s quite possible a life has been ruined by the casual recklessness of the three leads. And everybody is just really cool about it. It reminds me a bit of how Adam West used to occasionally end Batman! with a dance, ignoring anything else going on.

Still, it’s a small complaint in the scheme of things. The Hangover, Part II suffers from being a follow-up to a much-loved comedy. It doesn’t have the same advantages that its predecessor had. Still, it can be damned hilarious from time to time, and the three leads make a fine sport of it. It’s charming and witty and funny, but it isn’t quite an instant comedy classic.

10 Responses

  1. The biggest benefit of the film is that the leads are fun when they are together. The downfall is that it’s the same story.

  2. By the way, Darren, what set-piece was more raunchy in your mind, the bridal shop scene in Bridesmaids or the tranny scene?

  3. I heard a lot of “that wasn’t a bad movie but…” from all of those who weren’t completely wasted going into the film.

    http://www.undy-a-hundy.com/?p=1766

  4. The Hangover Part 2 is racist towards Asian people. I say we Asians boycott this film and show Hollywood that we won’t tolerate their discrimination any longer. In fact, I’ve created a website for that purpose:

    http://asianboycottleague.wordpress.com/

    It’s meant to be used as a petition. Please comment on the site to pledge that you will not watch the Hangover Part 2 or any movies similar to it.

    • I don’t think it’s any more racist against Asians than, for example, Americans (and yes, a film made by a group can be prejudiced against that group, it’s called internal racism). In the world of the films, everyone is an idiot, a horrible person, or a psychopath – regardless of ethnicity. It’s crass and stupid and stereotypical, but I certainly don’t think that the sequel is populated with any more Asian stereotypes and clichés and cheap shots than the original was about Vegas. Plus, to be honest, the three leads come out looking insensitive, arrogant and completely culturally unaware.

      But, I respect your opinion (even if I respectfully disagree) and – if anybody reading this agrees – I encourage them to sign the petition.

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