May 25, 2011

Hangover Part II, The

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Hangover Part II, The

COMEDY:

United States, 2011

U.S. Release Date:

2011-05-26

Running Length:

1:42

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Nudity, Profanity, Violence, Drugs)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Mason Lee, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti

Director:

Todd Phillips

Screenplay:

Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips

Cinematography:

Lawrence Sher

Music:

Christophe Beck

U.S. Distributor:

Warner Brothers

Subtitles:

none


When Yogi Berra said "It's déjà vu all over again," maybe he said it best. Then again, perhaps it was John McClane: "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" While neither was specifically referring to The Hangover Part II, Todd Phillips' sequel to the unexpected 2009 blockbuster, they might have been. Using the original as a template, The Hangover Part II colors within the lines, but does so with bright fluorescents rather than drab primaries. Despite being mandated by the insane box office success of its predecessor, this movie feels anything but obligatory. It delivers what it's expected to deliver, and that's likely to make it a success with anyone who laughed his ass off two summers ago.

This Hangover begins two years after the last one and features many of the same characters, including Iron Mike. Returning once again for another masochistic go-round are the four members of the "Wolf Pack": Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha). The occasion of their reunion is Stu's wedding to the lovely Lauren (Jamie Chung), an event occurring in her native Thailand. Stu wisely opts to skip the bachelor party, recalling the infamous night-before Doug's nuptials, but unwisely decides to join his comrades sitting around a bonfire on a Thai beach, swapping stories, drinking beer, and roasting marshmallows. Next thing any of them knows, they're waking up in a seedy Bangkok dive. It's Phil, Stu (with a new facial adornment), and Alan (with a new hairdo). Not with them are Doug and Lauren's teenage brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), although the young Stanford pre-med student was on the beach with them and has left behind his finger. Now it's up to the trio to decode what happened last night, find Teddy, and get back to Thailand before the wedding. If only things were that easy...

Rightly assuming that The Hangover Part II should not deviate from the formula that worked in The Hangover, Phillips and his crew almost remake the first movie, albeit with different setups and payoffs. The change in setting (from Vegas to Bangkok) spices things up and, while the storyline is familiar, it's not stale. It's not quite as fun solving the "mystery" of the missing night here as it was in The Hangover, but this isn't Agatha Christie. The humor is as dark, raunchy and envelope-pushing as in the original, with plenty of laughs to be had by all who appreciate their comedy closer to NC-17 than PG. Had an indie studio released The Hangover Part II, it would likely have been accorded an NC-17 by the prudish MPAA.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis slide into their roles as if they didn't go on to play other characters in the interim, although at least two of the three (Helms being the exception) have seen significant career upticks. Phil is the good-looking leader, Stu is the worry-wart nerd, and Alan is quite possibly the most loathsome individual to have crawled out from under a rock. He's not a loveable loser; he's a detestable loser - and that's where a lot of the comedy comes from. Galifianakis stole the show in The Hangover and he steals it here. Refreshingly, Phillips does not feel the need to give Alan a heroic moment of redemption.

Other returning players are Justin Bartha, whose screen time is curtailed when Doug is allowed to stay in Thailand for this misadventure; Ken Jeong, whose Mr. Chow is no less coarse; and the wives (Sasha Barrese and Gillian Vigman). Improbably, there's also Mike Tyson, who enters the scene crooning the words to "One Night in Bangkok" and later growls at Stu to remove his tattoo. Newcomers to The Hangover Part II include Paul Giamatti (looking eerily like his father, Bart), Mason Lee, and Nick Cassavetes in a role originally intended for Mel Gibson.

In addition to retaining the structure of The Hangover, with the protagonists following half-baked clues to figure out their activities and whereabouts of the previous night, The Hangover Part II stays true in other areas, as well. Most of the nudity is male, which is reasonable since naked men are generally funnier than naked women. The end credits roll alongside a slideshow of still photographs from the "missing night," and many of the biggest laughs are to be found here.

Often, comedy sequels that follow the formulas of their predecessors fail miserably. The list is long and inglorious, with titles like Airplane 2 and Three Men and a Little Lady near the top. Perhaps because of its brash and unapologetic nature, The Hangover Part II doesn't fall prey to that pitfall. Although not as shockingly unexpected as the first movie, this one is still a garish orgy of bad taste and dare-you-not-to-laugh comedy. The "oods" of humor all apply: rude, crude, and lewd. As Alan remarks, "When a monkey nibbles on a penis, it's funny in any language." It will be interesting to see where the filmmakers go with The Hangover Part III, because it's hard to imagine this film not scoring big at the box office.

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