The Hangover: Part II
By Ann Hornaday
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Summer wouldn’t be fittingly launched without a go-for-broke raunchy comedy, the kind of uncensored, emotionally expansive movie where pleasure can be found not just in the taboos it gleefully smashes but in its celebration of friendship, emotional growth and sundry humanist values.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have that movie: It’s called “Bridesmaids” and it’s playing at your local multiplex.
“The Hangover Part II” qualifies as a valuable film as well, albeit in what it teaches us about the perils of formula, sequelitis and taking your audience for granted. A veritable textbook case of what not to do when re-making a comedy that depended on sheer surprise for most of its appeal, “The Hangover Part II” also inadvertently points up the weaknesses of the first movie, which became a huge hit two summers ago. Fans of “The Hangover” — which starred Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis as refugees from a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly wrong — were prone to forget the long, laugh-free sequences in between the more memorable set pieces, just as they easily overlook the fact that, were it not for Galifianakis’s quietly deranged presence, “The Hangover” would likely have been a hamhanded, unevenly paced dud.
In “Part II,” those two facts are revealed in inescapably stark relief, as director Todd Phillips, working from a script he wrote with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, follows the first movie beat-for-beat, switching a character and location here and there but never straying far from the original template. So the movie opens with Cooper’s Phil — scruffy, sweaty, red-eyed — dolefully calling Tracy, the impending bride from the first movie, to tell her that, once again, “We [screwed] up.” By “we,” of course, he means Alan (Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms), who is about to be married in Thailand.
Just how did Stu come to be engaged to a woman of Thai extraction, when the original ”Hangover” seemed to suggest a future of wedded bliss with Heather Graham’s hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold? Not to worry, all is explained in “Part II,” where bits and bobs of exposition are helpfully tucked in during the guys’ pancake breakfast or, in Alan’s bedroom, a wall full of incriminating Vegas photos.
Once the posse lands in Thailand, “just one beer” two nights before the wedding turns into a similar bender, with the three principals awaking in a Bangkok hotel room with a severed finger, a monkey in a Rolling Stones vest and no memory of how they got there. And they’ve managed to lose Stu’s future brother-in-law, launching a search of the city’s bars, strip clubs and tattoo parlors where they’ve left a trail of havoc in their wake.
Other than a cigarette-smoking monkey instead of a sunglasses-wearing baby, a lurid face tattoo instead of a missing tooth and a locale that exchanges Vegas’s ersatz sheen for a decidedly dingier, dank aesthetic, ”The Hangover Part II” offers absolutely nothing new to fans of the first film. In fact, once the comfort of familiarity has worn off, they may well feel as baited-and-switched as the patrons of one of the sketchier clubs the boys visit. Granted, “Part II” offers some predictably outrageous sight gags, including male frontal nudity where you least expect it. But for the most part, the filmmakers have followed the first recipe so slavishly, and with such little genuine imagination, that most of the entertainment value lies in matching up gags in the sequel with their funnier — analogs in the original.
The one cheering exception to an otherwise ho-hum exercise is Galifianakis, who plays the spoiled, sartorially challenged man-child Alan, a preening, glowering, utterly fascinating conundrum composed of co-equal parts naivete, hauteur, feral menace and barely submerged homoerotic desire. It’s Alan — who describes himself as a “stay-at-home-son” with the gravitas of someone announcing he’s the head of the SEC — who has the film’s most surreally humorous dialogue. And it’s Galifianakis who gives those jokes extra mileage by way of the surreal afterthought. “I wish monkeys could Skype” is a funny line, sure. But it’s the wistful yearning with which Galifianakis adds, “Maybe one day” that sends it into the ether of comic genius.
Still, as absurdly funny as Alan’s sick asides can be (“Feet first, I’ve done this before,” he mutters as the boys try to stuff a dead body into an ice machine), they’re too few and far between to make “The Hangover Part II” worth the party. Like the first film, the funniest sequence is the final photo montage of what really went down that night; unlike the first, the squalor, grunge and moral turpitude that precede it carry no shock value or cathartic release. Reportedly Phillips and his producers are already gearing up for “The Hangover Part III,” but they might have already hit rock bottom. Maybe it’s time they swore off the stuff.
Contains pervasive profanity; strong sexual content, including graphic nudity; drug use; and brief violent images.