Film Review: THE HANGOVER PART II – “Been there, done that.”

****DISCLAIMER****
This review is for entertainment purposes only. Honestly, the only way to freshen up this Maury Povich show is whenever Maury announces someone is not the father a clown comes out and smashes a pie in the woman’s face.

I loved The Hangover. An unexpected surprise when I went to the Warner Bros. lot and watched a press screening for a movie that had no real buildup or hype. I didn’t even know who any of the cast members were when I first saw the posters at ShoWest back in 2009. But after I saw the film, I had a smile on my face from ear to ear. I’m a big fan of road trip movies, especially if those movies take place in Las Vegas. I knew a sequel was coming since the studio had apparently greenlit one before the first film was even released, and early word of it taking place in Thailand meant the scenarios our guys would find themselves in could be even crazier than the first movie. It’s a shame the sequel ended up being an almost carbon copy clone of the original movie. There will be some spoilers but if you’ve seen the original then I think you’ll be ok with that. If you’re not ok with that then tough shit, I’m writing them anyway.

The Hangover Part II picks up a couple of years after the first film. Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the gang are going to Thailand for Stu’s (Ed Helms) marriage to his new fiance Lauren (Jamie Chung). I like the idea of a white man marrying an Asian woman because you don’t see a lot of that in today’s segregated society. Stu is still traumatized by the events of the first film and doesn’t want Alan (Zach Galifianakis) anywhere near the wedding but is eventually coerced into inviting him. When the guys arrive in Thailand, they celebrate Stu’s marriage by having one drink at the beach, inviting along Lauren’s little brother Teddy (Mason Lee). Of course, nothing goes as planned and Phil, Stu and Alan wake up the next morning in a strange hotel room with no recollection of what happened the night before. I’ve had lots of nights like that but I usually wake up wondering who the dead hooker is and how blood got on my hands. Eh, nobody will miss her.

“Tracy, it's Phil. We accidentally fucked up and remade the first movie.”

The boys have to quickly get their act together and get back to the resort in time for Stu’s wedding in a couple of days. Of course, someone in their party is missing and it’s Lauren’s little brother Teddy. What a pain in the ass. Not only did you wake up with a hangover and no recollection of the night before but now you have to find an Asian dude in Bangkok. That’s like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. AHAHAHAHA! God, I’m pathetic.

Returning for the sequel is Mr. Chow, the only character actor Ken Jeong will take with him to the grave since that’s the only character he seems to play in every role since the first film came out. The boys end up going to strange locations trying to piece together what happened the night before without falling apart from the stress. Sound familiar? That’s because it is familiar. The Hangover Part II is essentially the first film, only it takes place in a new location. The tone, pacing and structure is so identical that there are no real surprises. The only real surprise is that Part II is a bit darker than the first movie. There are some laughs but they’re scattered throughout the picture. Thirty minutes into the movie and I was already tired of the similarities. I was actually going to list them all… like Phil calling to say they fucked up… the raised glass toast… the boys being drugged again… Stu singing another song… Mr. Chow leaping out and attacking the guys… a hospital visit… a speech by Alan… Stu figuring out where their lost friend is… Stu yelling at the wedding… etc., etc. I hate comparing this film to the first. I should be judging it on its own merits as if I hadn’t seen the original, but that’s hard to do when the film keeps reminding us that we’ve already been through this before.

This is the look on everyone's face that drives in Southern California.

I hate saying this, but The Hangover Part II just isn’t a fun film. In the first Hangover you don’t have a problem with some of the crazy situations these guys found themselves in. Most of them they laughed at themselves. But in the sequel, you don’t want to be a part of any of it. The character of Stu is put through so much humiliation I’m surprised he didn’t blow his brains out. Stu admits to having a “demon” inside of him that causes such bad behavior when he’s drunk, but it’s a device only used for his angry speech right before his wedding and doesn’t really go anywhere.

One thing I did find interesting was the character development of Alan, a man who now comes across as a mean child, instead of the quirky guy we loved from the first movie. Alan is someone who can’t let go of that night in Vegas and the bonding he experienced with his “wolfpack.” When Teddy arrives, Alan is immediately threatened by his presence, fearing that the friendships he formed won’t be the same if someone new enters his coveted circle. I was actually kind of fascinated by Alan’s paranoid non-existent threat in regards to Teddy. He’s a character that has regressed into depression and loneliness because he longs for more nights like the one in Vegas. He’s like a child who wishes his day at the theme park would never end and isn’t sure how to psychologically move on when it does. Of course, those characteristics seem to disappear as the movie progresses and Alan is relegated to providing whatever comic relief he can with his innocent idiocy and misunderstood intentions.

Bradley Cooper, who was paid $5 million to appear in the sequel (sleep on that next time you go to work at your office job), is the tour guide, making sure everyone gets from point A to point B. I’ve always liked Bradley Cooper. I’m not sure why so many people think he’s a bad actor or has no comedic timing when that isn’t the case. I think his character of Phil is the glue that holds everyone together and Bradley does just as good a job in this as he did in The Hangover.

Phil and Alan bond. BEFORE ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE! AGAIN!

As far as cameos go, I was a bit disappointed when we got to the tattoo parlor scene. Mel Gibson would have killed that role and it sucks that Liam Neeson wasn’t able to do the reshoots required. I guess Vinnie Jones was too busy because we got stuck with Nick Cassavetes. Mike Tyson does have his cameo in the film but it just feels forced and unnecessary. Jeffrey Tambor is back but his role is even smaller than before. A big bummer was no appearance by The Dan Band which was a shame.

The blame for what’s wrong with The Hangover Part II has to fall on writers Craig Mazin, writer of the beloved classics Scary Movie 3 & 4, and Scot Armstrong, who blessed cinema with some hits (Old School, Road Trip) and some misses (The Heartbreak Kid and well…there’s nothing worse than that.) Instead of taking the sequel into an entirely new direction, they, along with Todd Phillips, simply copied the formula used by Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. While they presented new problems for the guys, like Stu’s face tattoo, a tranny run-in (we’ve all had those, right fellas? Fellas?) and Chow’s criminal involvement with the mysterious Kingsley (Paul Giamatti), everything else in the movie was just too damned familiar. Sure, the scope of the film is bigger but that doesn’t necessarily make it better.

Speaking of scope, The Hangover Part II was shot beautifully by cinematographer Lawrence Sher. A lot of wide shots were used which I think plays better in comedy. I always thought Todd Phillips was a really talented director who knows how to get the best shots for his movies that not only compliment the actors, but keeps the audience engaged in what’s happening on screen. I’m tired of hacks like Garry Marshall who use so many close-ups you’d think they were shooting a 90-minute makeup commercial.

I really wanted to love The Hangover Part II. It isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a movie you’ve already seen. Nothing about it is very memorable. Despite my feelings towards this one, I am looking forward to another sequel. I’m a huge Phillips fan and I think he’s one of the best talents working in Hollywood today. I hope for the third outing they actually manage to get away from doing the same formula as before and put these guys into a situation that isn’t so easily forgettable.

Almost forgot – since apparently the writers did – Justin Bartha is also in the movie but he’s barely in it. Don’t worry Justin, I’m sure Nic Cage will be calling you soon as National Treasure 3 is greenlit.

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4 thoughts on “Film Review: THE HANGOVER PART II – “Been there, done that.”

  1. Harrison

    Bravo, a very spot on review! Of course Hangover 2 sucked. It was a rip off of the first one, which sucked too. Talk about dumbing down everyone… maybe we aren’t as dumb as they think. Just maybe next time they’ll come up with some innovative, original material that makes us laugh. Just maybe…

  2. Donny

    I like this film, the writing was very expected of the first film, the surprise was a surprise on the first film and the second we all were expecting a different plot maybe. Also the word “Nigga” was poorly used in this film and there was no need to just drop it the few times for no reason. Now if this film was a film about urban America than using the word “Niggaz” in a script would be perfectly okay because this is not just a word in Urban America and it’s not a word to just throw around in a comedy.

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