Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Hangover Part II (**)
Directed by Todd Phillips
I guess no one should ever question a winning recipe, and lord knows the filmmakers behind this sequel to The Hangover have any qualms with it, even though it tastes so familiar. The Hangover Part II is a near carbon copy of its predecessor in all types of ways, matching the smutfest humor of the original while still having the audacity to go even further. I'm not totally sure why director Todd Phillips decided this time to take minor detours into more sadistic material, but it almost kind of works since it's the only thing that stops it from being the exact same movie.
This time around, it's Stu (Ed Helms) that is getting married, to a cute Thai girl named Lauren (Jamie Cheung - who I was surprised to find is only nine years younger than Helms, because she looks 15). His closest pals Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are more than happy to fly all the way to Thailand to be there for Stu, but things get a little more complicated when they're forced to, once again, bring along Doug's infantile brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifinakis). Alan has still not gotten over the "awesome" time he had with Stu and Phil in Vegas, and has been sitting pathetically in his room waiting for the Wolfpack to come together again. Against his best judgment, Stu concedes and invites him.
In Thailand, the four men are greeted by Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren's uber-smart and incredibly kind teenaged brother. Alan sees Teddy as an immediate threat to the livelihood of the Wolfpack, but Lauren begs Stu and the rest of them to keep Teddy company since he rarely gets to cut loose, spending all his time studying. Of course, there are other issues present, including Lauren's traditional, domineering father (Nirut Sirichanya) who goes out of his way during the rehearsal dinner to compare Stu to a boring bowl of rice. After the emasculating display, Stu and Teddy join the rest of the guys for a couple of beers out on the beach where they toast to the upcoming festivities.
As we expect, the night flashes forward at a blistering pace and the next day, Stu, Phil and Alan wake up in a seedy Bangkok motel room without Teddy and not remembering a single thing. The only details that they have are a friendly monkey, a severed finger sitting in a bowl of water, and a face tattoo implanted on Stu's left temple. The three men spend the next two days desperately searching around Bangkok for any clues to the whereabouts of Teddy. They have run-ins with several drug dealers, police officers, and strippers (not to mention another appearance from Mr. Chow - played again by Ken Jeong, who's totally afraid to let it all hang out) to try and put together the pieces of yet another otherworldly night.
That this film relies so much on reproducing the structure of the first one is regrettable since its best moments come when it tries to separate itself. The Hangover Part II is a lot dirtier and grimier, and while a lot of that might have to do with the Bangkok location, it's hard to imagine the original film getting away with moments involving monkey fellatio and transsexual sodomy. Phillips has always been a filmmaker who relied heavily on the sight gag to get laughs - hell, the guy made his career by filming Tom Green eat a live mouse in Road Trip - but in this film he really pushes things further than most could have really imagined.
The disappointment I've always had with the Hangover films is their over-reliance on that type of comedy. With a cast that includes to performers as comedically gifted as Helms and Galifinakis, I always wondered why you wouldn't let them handle the comedy, instead of Mike Tyson or Ken Jeong's penis. Sure, there are a few times when they're allowed to use their charms (or in the case of Galifinakis, their lack of charm) to create humor, but it's too few and far between. The film is funny, but very few of the jokes are actually any type of clever.
The Hangover Part II did humongous business like its predecessor, in part because it stayed so close to the formula that the original had created. So the story goes, you can't knock a hit. There were a lot of moments during watching this that I laughed a lot - and sometimes I felt like a bad person for doing so. Often, I found myself wondering if this one was better than the first one, but then I dismissed the entire discussion. Because to dissect them as two different movies would be totally deviating from what the filmmakers had in mind.