Movie Review #745
Directed by Todd Phillips. Written by Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips. (Characters: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore.) Produced by Daniel Goldberg and Todd Phillips for Green Hat Films and Living Films, presented by Warner Bros., in association with Legendary Pictures. Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung, and Sasha Barrese. Credited cameos: Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, and Nick Cassavetes. Uncredited cameos: Christina Ebert and Todd Phillips. Distributed by Warner Bros. in wide release on May 26, 2011. Rated R: pervasive language, strong sexual content incuding graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images. Runs 102 minutes.
You have to enter “The Hangover Part II” knowing that it won’t be an extraordinary sequel, and that it won’t be the classic the first one was. Yes, we’re prone to these unrealistic expectations with any sequel we’re excited for, but to expect so much of a sequel to a classic means that if the result isn’t a classic, then it’s probably god-awful.
The thing is “The Hangover Part II” isn’t god-awful or even close to that. No, I wasn’t nearly as entertained as I was the first time around, but you know that everyone’s happy to be back with some of the antics they bring. (Maybe, from the way they’re overacting, Paul Giamatti and Ed Helms were just too happy.) You can tell that the movie is overall a creation of half-genius and half-couch potato. It has all the jokes, but if all it needs to do is take jokes from off the top of its head, rather than cranking out new ones, then so be it. And yes, “Part II” relies greatly on standalone jokes to get us laughing. But hey, isn’t laughter essentially all we need from a comedy?
The couch potato personality comes into play heavily in terms of the story. Last time around, the “Wolfpack” hit Vegas for a bachelor party right before their friend Doug’s wedding. The Wolfpack is a fine arrangement of actors Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, and in this sequel, Cooper is just playing along, Helms is over-the-top, and thank god Galifianakis is enough to save the movie. Anyway, Alan (Galifianakis) roofied them in the first “part” of “The Hangover”, and the next morning, it was as if hell had frozen over.
“Part II” is set in Bangkok, where Stu (Helms) is getting married. I’m not sure why these guys would even speak to Alan again after being roofied and nearly arrested (several times in a single night), but he convinces them pretty easily to take him to Thailand for a miniature bachelor party and what have you. And yeah, he does it again, but it’s not roofies this time; it’s muscle relaxant and ADHD medication. Now I have to wonder about this. Do muscle relaxants and ADHD medication truly produce the same effect as roofies when they’re used together? Maybe for some people, but I’m not a medical doctor, and my immediate thought was, “There’s no way that’s even possible.”
You can probably guess what happens next, just from my description of the previous installment. The Wolfpack wakes up again to find that hell has frozen over yet again. From there, we encounter much familiar territory. The first time around, Stu had a chipped tooth, now he has a tattoo covering the entire side of his face. A stolen, drug-dealing, chain-smoking monkey plays the same role in “Part II” that Mike Tyson’s stolen tiger did in the first part. Of course, Doug (Justin Bartha) is separated from the group again. They’re concerned over finding Stu’s brother-in-law-to-be, though, as they were concerned over finding Doug in the first movie. Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is suddenly back, as well. Oh yeah and they go through all the pictures they took but couldn’t remember, at the very end. (Does the MPAA look at what’s appearing during the credits? If so, how on earth did this get an R rating on its first submission? What might I find on the unrated version, seeing how outlandishly raunchy some of these images are in the theatrical version?)
The whole movie feels like déjà vu, except perhaps the improbability here is twofold what it was before. Can I put it more plainly? We’ve already seen this movie. The idea of “Let’s rewrite our blockbuster and make another couple million dollars” works well for quite a while, but not forever. I actually zoned out during some of the last half an hour. It seemed, at this point, that Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, and Todd Phillips had given up on writing a screenplay at this point, and were more concerned over getting finished with everything. Even when Mike Tyson comes back at the end, that feels really hokey. In a sense, the whole movie feels like a TV movie, which is never a good thing in the movie industry, but it actually seems acceptable here. “The Hangover Part II” plays out like the hour-forty-minute pilot episode for a sitcom, except a lot raunchier than anything that would be allowed on TV. And if you subtract its best characters (Zach Galifianakis as Alan, and Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow), the movie mostly falls flat. But, as if I haven’t said it already, Alan and Mr. Chow are more than enough to save the film. In fact, I’m already excited to watch “Part III”. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano
Footnote, regarding the end credits: I don’t mind all the instances of graphic nudity that were saved for the credits. I do mind what director Todd Phillips did to the anti-war photograph “General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon” during the credits. That a human being would ever use this photograph for comedic purposes is deplorable on so many levels.