26 May 2011

The Hangover Part II

From left, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are shown in a scene from "The Hangover Part II."
Did you enjoy “The Hangover?” Judging from the box office receipts, many of you did. So did the people who made it, so much so that they essentially made the same movie again and called it “The Hangover Part II.”

Before I get into what director Todd Phillips and company did wrong, let me say this: “The Hangover Part II” is consistently funny and entertaining. Leading men Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis easily slip back into their roles, and it is a joy to watch them play off each other.

It was their chemistry and the camaraderie of Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Alan (Galifianakis) that gave the first movie its heart. That and a wildly unpredictable story made “The Hangover” an instant classic and possibly the funniest movie of the past decade. Yes, it has its moments of shock humor, but it’s secondary to the characters and the plot.

Not so with “The Hangover Part II.”

Phillips, who also co-wrote this time with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, undoubtedly felt the need to top the first movie. That means going more outrageous, more over the top, and as a consequence, the character moments are harder to come by.

At the same time, though, Phillips rigidly sticks to the familiar formula, employing an identical structure, hitting the same beats. The word “again” keeps showing up in the dialogue, as in “I can't believe this is happening again!”

With constant references to events of the first movie, it is as if the filmmakers are trying to remind us how much we liked it. But it’s only two years old, and if you came back for part two, it’s probably safe to say you’re a fan of part one.

The only significant change is moving the action from Las Vegas to Thailand.

Stu is the one getting married this time, to the beautiful Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose father (Nirut Sirichanya) disapproves of him while doting on his 16-year-old son, Teddy (Mason Lee), a pre-med student at Stanford and cello prodigy. After Phil and Doug (Justin Bartha), the groom from part one, talk Stu into extending a last-minute invitation to Alan, who describes himself as a “stay-at-home son,” the “wolfpack” is back.

Two nights before the wedding, the group heads down to the beach for a beer. The next morning, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in a seedy Bangkok hotel room, along with a chain-smoking, drug-dealing monkey, Teddy’s severed finger and the international criminal Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Alan’s head is shaved; Stu has a fresh tattoo on his face; Phil is relatively unscathed. Doug is safe back at the luxurious seaside resort where the wedding will be held.

But where is Teddy?
That’s the question this time around, and the search for an answer encompasses an American crime lord (Paul Giamatti), Russian gangsters, Buddhist monks, a brothel and more. Some of it is “shocking,” but because we know the movie is not going to stray far from its path, nothing is truly surprising.

Most of the funniest moments are one-liners from Galifianakis.

I laughed during this movie and so did the other people in the packed theater—a lot. I suppose that is what really matters when assessing something like this. It's just that it was done so much better the first time around. Even though the two movies are almost exactly the same, it feels like part two was made in a completely opposite spirit.

Entertaining though it may be, “The Hangover Part II” is more than a little depressing. It is the epitome of lazy Hollywood filmmaking.

Greg's Grade: C+

(Rated R for for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images. 102 minutes.)

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