The Hangover Part II
Release Date: May 26, 2011
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms
MPAA Rating: R
Tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for stealing Mike Tyson’s face tattoo and putting it on Ed Helm’s character in The Hangover Part II. After seeing the film, I’m surprised Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore didn’t sue the studio for stealing their script and calling it a sequel.
Comedy is perhaps the toughest genre to avoid the “sophomore slump.” With something like an action movies, you can just plug a new villain and a slightly altered set up and the formula usually still works. But comedy – good comedy, anyway – needs the element of surprise. The best jokes are the ones you don’t see coming. So to make a good comedy sequel, you need to find a way to stay true to the spirit of the original while coming up with new jokes and set ups to get the big laughs. Unfortunately, The Hangover Part II sticks too close to the structure of the original film and as a result just ends up feeling like a lifeless retread.
The script feels like a Mad Libs version of the original film. All of the core elements are the exact same – there’s a wedding two days away, a bachelor party that goes awry and a morning after where the three members of the “Wolfpack” must piece together their forgotten night in order to locate a missing friend. This time around the wedding is in Bangkok and it’s Stu (Ed Helms) who is getting married to a woman named Lauren (Jamie Chung). (I guess things didn’t work out with his first wife, Jade.) And instead of Doug (Justin Bartha), this time it’s Lauren’s 16-year-old child prodigy brother Teddy (Mason Lee) who goes missing.
The story follows all the same beats as the first one. Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) retrace their steps in order to find Teddy and along the way begin to unravel a disturbing series of events that took place the previous night. However, in this film the forgotten night turns out to be quite darker than in the first one. Bangkok is a much seedier and scarier town than Las Vegas. Instead of a suite in Caesar’s Palace, they wake up in a rundown hotel room in a dingy part of town. While the events in the first film felt like “wacky hijinks,” in this film there is a severed finger, a gunshot wound and a much more disturbing encounter with a stripper/prostitute.
In addition to the identical plot structure, there are too many references to the first film and too heavy a reliance on callbacks to that movie in an effort to win the audience over. Alan even has the photos from the end of The Hangover framed on his wall in his room. (He also has a “Macho Man” Randy Savage poster, which turned out to be perfectly timed for whoever decided to throw it in there.) The characters spend too much time reminiscing about the first film and saying variations of “I can’t believe this is happening again.” Even the opening, which is almost identical to the start of the first film, has Phil calling Tracy (Sasha Barrese) and saying, “It happened again.”
While it mostly feels tired, the movie does have some funny moments. Unsurprisingly, Galifianakis gets a few solid laughs as Alan, though I think they could have gotten more out of him with better material. However, the two characters that steal every scene they are in are Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who is Alan’s “plus-one” to the wedding, and a drug dealing monkey that chain smokes and rocks a denim Rolling Stones jacket. Mr. Chow’s role is expanded in this film and Jeong makes the most of every scene he is in with his flamboyant persona and ridiculous accent. And the monkey is just adorable.
Oddly enough, there is also a surprisingly intense car chase sequence in the film as the gang evades drug dealers on motorcycles who are trying to gun them down. Director Todd Phillips does a great job putting the scene together. It’s a very well-shot and exciting car chase that easily would have been at home in a legitimate action movie.
But the truly enjoyable scenes in the film are few and far between. Also, because the tone is much darker than the first film, many of the events come off as more disturbing than funny. Particularly problematic is Ed Helm’s character, who is not only stuck with a permanent face tattoo, but who eventually becomes so troubled by what he discovers happened the night before that he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. There’s nothing really funny about his suffering – it just seems sad.
It doesn’t help that the ending attempts to wrap things up in a nice bow in a very hacky and forced way. You always have to suspend disbelief in a comedy – particularly one like The Hangover Part II – but the mega happy ending just seems too convenient and too forced to be believed after everything that transpire in the film. You could believe that Tracy would chalk up the events in the first film to a crazy weekend in Vegas, but it’s very difficult to accept that Lauren and her father (who despises Stu from the very beginning) would be as forgiving this time around.
Still, that’s a minor complaint that wouldn’t matter if the rest of the film had been funnier. It’s just one of many problems in a film that just doesn’t work. The Hangover Part II is hoping to cash in on nostalgia. It wants to skate by by reminding you of its predecessor. But don’t fall for it. Save your money and just go watch The Hangover again instead.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.