Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Hangover Part II Reminds Us Why We Loved The Hangover, But Little Else!

The Good: Moments of humor, Moments of character development
The Bad: Plot is entirely derivative of the first film.
The Basics: After all of the hype, The Hangover Part II, arrives as a surprisingly middle-of-the-road comedy which does little the original didn't already do.

Now that I have time again to go to the movies, I am enjoying the outset of Summer Blockbuster Season and my loyal readers can expect much more in the way of current film reviews in the foreseeable future. That starts today with the only film my wife has wanted to see in the theaters lately, The Hangover Part II. The best possible summary I can provide of this film actually comes from her. When I asked her for a little time to write the review of the movie, she asked me, "Couldn't you just take your review of the first one and change the names?" It's a cute thought, but not one that entirely works.

My wife and I were very excited to be a part of the hype surrounding The Hangover (reviewed here!). We went to a preview screening a month before the movie was released and we even still have the shot glasses we received from it. Last Christmas, I gave her The Hangover on Blu-Ray and it was exciting to rewatch it together. So, it was with some disappointment that I had to admit that it would be pretty easy to fudge a review of The Hangover Part II wherein I simply changed the names of people and places to fit the newer film. More than that, The Hangover Part II lacks the charm of the initial film and its originality. The Hangover Part II is more like "The Hangover 2011" than the second chapter in a growing story. This is pretty much a remake of the first film, set in Bangkok as opposed to Las Vegas.

Two years after their disastrous bachelor party in Las Vegas for Doug, Stu has fallen in love and is planning to marry Lauren. Phil and Doug have some reservations about flying to Thailand for the wedding, but because Stu is such a good friend, they decide to make the trip. Doug, trying to keep peace in his family, begs Stu to allow Alan to come along and despite his mistrust of the man who roofied him years ago, Stu invites Alan to join the wedding party. Alan is immediately jealous of Lauren's little brother, Teddy, who is a sixteen year-old genius already pre-Med in college. When the five arrive in Thailand, Stu is embarrassed at his dinner by an insulting toast from Lauren's father and another from Alan. Trying to loosen him up, Lauren recommends the men go out to the beach for a single drink.

Stu, Phil and Alan awaken the next morning in a filthy room in Bangkok where they discover Teddy's finger, a monkey and Leslie Chow, the man the guys locked in the trunk of a car in Las Vegas. Chow prepares to tell the guys exactly what happened the night before when he overdoses on cocaine and dies. This leaves a bald Alan, Stu with a Mike Tyson tattoo around his eye and a very groggy Phil to try to find Teddy. Their journey puts them in the company of a silent monk, a smoking monkey and a gangster who needs an account number from Chow and if the guys cannot deliver the goods, Teddy will be killed!

The Hangover Part II utilizes a startling number of elements from The Hangover beyond the same cast and characters, so much so it is hard to believe the film will have the staying power that the original did. There are the wounds (Stu lost his teeth in the first, now he has a tattoo and Teddy has lost a finger), the dependent (in the first, it was a baby, this time it is a monkey and a monk), the mistaken identity ("Black Doug" and "Monk Teddy"), and hookers for Stu which are cast in essentially the same ways. In fact, the plot of the two movies not only is virtually identical - the search for Doug vs. the search for Teddy - but it unfolds in almost the exact same way.

What separates the two films most - other than the setting - are the character aspects. What made The Hangover so compelling was that it was a guy's film wherein the men are actually trying to take responsibility. They are on a quest to determine what happened to them in their drunken stupor because they want to know and they want, to some extent, to be held accountable. In The Hangover Part II, the plot meanders and is driven less by clues that the men possess and more by external forces acting upon them. They do not have all of the answers in their pockets: they receive calls from Doug, they are told where the monk was from and they are extorted to get to Chow. This movie is less about the guys trying to do anything remarkable and more about the way they are pushed around.

The obvious exception to that is in the character of Stu. Stu has a character journey, albeit an obvious one and one which simply recasts him as the character equally smart as Phil, which was not evident in The Hangover. Stu becomes more self-actualized through the events of The Hangover Part II, but even that seems to serve the plot more than be an organic growth of the character. Stu is shoved down repeatedly throughout the film until he suddenly puts his life together for the final scene and while it is satisfying to watch, it lacks any realistic quality.

Furthermore, the key hook for The Hangover Part II has to be in how the events duplicate themselves and the answer is ridiculously unsatisfying. How the men end up blacking out a second time is what has to sell the viewer and it falls drastically short of being rewarding when it is revealed. The suspicion, naturally, centers on Alan and it takes a pretty dim viewer to not figure out well before it is revealed how the men end up drugged, when they are given sealed beer bottles.

On the acting front, The Hangover Part II has absolutely nothing viewers have not seen before from the principle actors. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong and even Justin Bartha show us nothing in their performances that they did not in The Hangover. Paul Giamatti is good in his brief scenes, but the style of humor easily fits inside his range. Indeed, the most surprising performance comes in the cameo at the very end of the movie (which I shall not ruin).

That said, The Hangover Part II is funny, but it is not an essential comedy film. It is largely a series of callbacks to The Hangover and it was utterly unnecessary. The Hangover Part II is not unenjoyable, though, and it contains enough crude humor, male nudity jokes, and adrenalin-driven moments to make it a decent "guy's night out" film, but it's hardly one to spend beyond matinee price (or sale price when it is released on DVD) on.

For other films with Ken Jeong, please check out my reviews of:
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Vampires Suck
Despicable Me
Furry Vengeance
Couples Retreat
Step Brothers


For other movie reviews, be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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