The Hangover Part II
(Todd Phillips, 2011, USA)
Given that the finale of 2009’s humorous and hugely popular comedy The Hangover pretty much wrapped up its story by filling in the blanks of its narrative macguffin, detailing the events of the raucous night before through the somewhat ingenious use of snapshots during the credits sequence, the prospect of a sequel was both puzzling and questionable due to the original’s status as a standalone feature that prided itself on being just that, a self-contained genre rejigger that never took itself too seriously. It was also one of the least likely films of 2009 to warrant a sequel, yet two years later here we are with this second ‘part’; less a continuation, more a renovation of the first film, which copies nonchalantly its content and plot devices at a consistently verbatim rate, The Hangover Part II is a sluggish, pointless and overly vulgar shot for shot copy of its far superior predecessor, though it is neither as clever or as tactful.
Whereas the first was merely mean-spirited, the sequel is borderline distasteful, with once likeable characters now vulgar shadows of their former selves; Bradley Cooper, whose apparent charm and adoration as a watchable leading man escapes me, is thoroughly unlikeable and Ed Helms, playing the affable dentist Stu, shrieks and winces his way through each and every scene, grating all too quickly. Zach Galifianakis, once hilariously eccentric, again replays the same character he quickly became typecast with since the original gave him his name, pedaling the same old wacky shtick he has now become so synonymous with, going for easy, lowest common denominator gags that miss more than they hit. He plays the mentally challenged Alan pretty much the same way he did first time round only with more of a sinister edge, making his affection for a drug smuggling, cigarette-toting monkey the only evidence of him being an actual human being, raising one or two minimal smirks in the process, but that’s as far as it goes.
Justin Bartha, the previous husband-to-be and vanished member of the ‘wolfpack’, again plays second fiddle to the three protagonists, missing out on the quest to find the latest misplaced victim of the group, Teddy, the teenage brother of Stu’s fiancee, who he is due to marry. Also resurfacing is Ken Jeong, a revelation in the first film as the effeminate gangster Mr. Chow, now brought back to the fold merely for penis sight gags and annoyingly lewd absurdities, annoying and vastly overused this time round. Paul Giamatti even crops up in a small role as an ill-tempered businessman, stealing the entire film right from under the lead’s noses.
Of course, the film isn’t exactly the same as the original. The setting shifts from Las Vegas to Thailand and the seedy underbelly of Bangkok, the sight of the latest forgotten evening which mirrors the tonal lapse into darker territory, making even the most gross jokes of the original seem meager and tame. Rest assured that Thai ladyboys and other xenophobic clichés are put abundantly to good use. The Hangover at least balanced its distasteful elements with some genuinely funny jokes embedded within an original narrative structure, delivering clues in dribs and drabs, this time however the jokes are banal and gratuitously disgusting, as embarrassing to watch as the inevitable cameo in the final scene. Well, almost, it needs to be seen to be believed.
The major downside brought on by the original was that it established a formula that its sequel fully exploits, pathing the way for a groan-inducing self-awareness (“It happened again” is said several times) that verges on desperate parody. Todd Phillips struck gold first time round and even tried relaying a similar template to last years unsuccessful, Planes, Trains & Automobiles-lite buddy movie Due Date (again with Galifianakis), and has again attempted to repeat the tricks of his runaway smash, but it hasn’t worked. Painstakingly giving almost every element from the first a dirtier equivalent, The Hangover Part 2 is as unnecessary in content as it is in existence, an experience not to be entered into lightly.
- The Hangover, 2009. [Film] Directed by Todd Phillips. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- The Hangover Part II, 2011. [Film] Directed by Todd Phillips. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles, 1987. [Film] Directed by John Hughes. USA: Paramount Pictures.