The Hangover Part II Review
Just how do you follow up the biggest R-rated comedy of all time? Clearly Todd Phillips felt the only way was to make exactly the same film again. For anyone who’s seen the trailer, the comparisons will be immediately apparent and The Hangover Part II follows exactly the same structure as well with everything carrying a strong scent of ‘if it ain’t broke…’ That in itself isn’t exactly a bad thing; part of what made The Hangover such a success was its back-to-front structure as the audience found out what happened at the same time as the characters. The real issue with The Hangover Part II is that it’s just nowhere near as funny or memorable as its predecessor.
Transporting the action from Las Vegas to Bangkok, The Hangover Part II again sees Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms) trying to piece together exactly what happened the night before. Instead of it being Doug’s (Justin Bartha) wedding, it’s Stu’s turn to get hitched but they’ve misplaced his bride-to-be’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee). So begins another series of encounters as the trio hunt for Teddy, along with the help of gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), to return him safely before the big day.
The film does at least start strongly with it taking a self-deprecating look at its similarities; it’s not so much meta, but the characters do point out that they’re in exactly the same situation (such as with their first port of call being the roof) and it leads you to believe the film will at least have its own originality. However, Phillips soon decides to carbon copy the film’s original scenarios, only with slightly different elements, and bogs the film down in inevitability once he starts to follow the same twists. The original worked so effectively as we honestly had no clue how it was all going to be wrapped up, but Part II is robbed of that and the journey is ultimately less satisfying as a result.
It’s not helped by the darker streak running through the film with situations that are seemingly shocking for shock’s sake, rather than the ‘you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it’ situations of the original; we must have missed the memo which explained an animal getting shot is apparently hilarious. There’s nothing wrong with pushing boundaries, Stu’s predicament with a hooker this time around is gag-inducing and brilliantly executed, but it’s a very fine line and one that the film frequently falls foul of. It completely loses the charm of the original, where the havoc caused was generally harmless and only humiliating to the Wolfpack and not life-threatening.
There are highlights, mainly coming from the scene-stealing monkey, but they are nowhere near consistent enough when everything else is executed so lazily. It’s as if Phillips felt that the presence of the likable main trio of Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms would be enough and, admittedly, it does feel good seeing them together on screen again but they’re hampered by their own stereotypes – Phil is the straight-laced one, Alan the lovably stupid one and Stu is the one that all the embarrassing things happen to – and some variation was needed despite them all putting in solid shifts. Maybe giving Doug a bigger role could have at least mixed things up and prevented them from becoming so stale.
Perhaps we’re being too harsh judging against the original; after all, that had the surprise element whereas the sequel only has the weight of expectation but Phillips and co should have known that. Fans of the original will no doubt flock to see it but it’s unlikely to have that word-of-mouth buzz that the first developed, even if the ending montage of photos leaves you smiling on the way out as it’s by far the funniest thing in the film. The problem is that despite adhering so closely to the original’s winning blueprint, something went missing along the way resulting in Part II lacking the spark and freshness that made The Hangover such a delight. Biggest disappointment of 2011 so far? Quite possibly.