Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: "The Hangover: Part II"

The Hangover (2009) worked because it shocked and awed us with its crude humour. It made stars out of Zach Galifianakis (who is still best on HBO's Bored to Death), Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper. It became the highest-grossing adult comedy in history. Hardly a month after The Hangover was released, media outlets were reporting that a sequel was in development. This is a summer of sequels. We have the fifth Fast and Furious, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean, Kung Fu Panda 2, another X-Men, more Transformers, and the last Harry Potter. What I would give for a little originality in Hollywood. The Hangover: Part II is completely unnecessary. We were all fooled by the teaser trailer. The action shifts from Las Vegas to Bangkok, Thailand, but the jokes that felt fresh in the first film feel stale the second time around. I was hoping that Justin Bartha, whose Doug was famously misplaced in Las Vegas, would have had an integral role in the mischief, but he did not. We have the same characters in roughly the same situations. In my opinion, the biggest downfall of The Hangover: Part II is leaning too heavily on two of the surprising stars from the original. Galifianakis was brilliant in the first film and won quite a few film roles based on his performance, but this sequels depends too much on his character's social ineptitude and becomes grating. Ken Jeong's role is expanded and I just do not have the patience for a larger dose of his character. Even his role on Community has become exhausting and it makes me wonder if the world (i.e. me) has moved on from his brand of comedy. The Hangover: Part II is funny, but it is neither as fresh nor as cohesive as its predecessor. It certainly adds to the claim that all Hollywood sequels exist only to make money and are made without plot and character development.

It has been two years since the adventure in Las Vegas and Stu (Helms) is getting married to Lauren (Jamie Chung) in Thailand. Phil (Cooper) and Doug (Bartha) are excited for the trip but disappointed that Stu is opting not to have a bachelor party. Doug also convinces Stu to invite his brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) to the wedding. It turns out that Alan has been obsessing over their trip to Las Vegas and yearns to have a deeper friendship with Doug and Phil. He is disappointed to learn that Lauren's teenage brother Teddy (Mason Lee) will be joining them on the flight. The wedding reception is an awkward experience for all parties. Lauren's father disapproves of Stu and puts a considerable amount of pressure on Teddy. After dinner, the guys want to drink on the beach with Stu. He is reluctant, but Lauren encourages him to be with his friends and to bring Teddy along. Phil wakes up the next morning in a dirty hotel room, unsure of where he is. Stu has a tattoo on his face and Alan's head is completely shaved. They soon find Leslie Chow (Jeung), whom Alan has befriended since Las Vegas, is there along with a small chain-smoking monkey. Teddy is nowhere to be found, but his finger, with his Stanford ring, is in the room. Phil calls Doug only to find that he is still at the resort, unaware of what happened the night before. Stu, Phil and Doug have no recollection of the previous night and must set out to find Teddy before they can return to the resort for Stu's wedding.

While the events of The Hangover were absurd and mostly unbelievable, Todd Phillips, the film's writer, producer and director has gone overboard for the sequel. The story is so outrageous that it becomes too silly too soon. The Hangover: Part II is forgettable. The jokes fail to resonate with the same intensity. Since the two films share the same plot outline, it becomes too easy to compare them and to realize why the second film fails to live up to its hype. A lot of attention was given to one cameo appearance in the film. Paul Giamatti has a small role in the film, but his character was reportedly first offered to Mel Gibson and then it was said to have been offered to Liam Neeson. All I could picture when Giamatti was on screen was how the scene may have been played differently by Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson. All three are talented actors, but this kind of role is watered down to simple caricature. A great success of The Hangover was the element of shock and surprise. It was a genuine surprise when the guys realized Doug was simply stuck on the roof. It is harder to appreciate the same film a second time when the writer and director is using the same tricks, just because they worked. The Hangover: Part II has some amusing moments, but it suffers from familiarity and predictability. While Bridesmaids is not a clone of The Hangover, it at least comes closer and is incredibly funnier.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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