Monday, June 6, 2011

Hair of the Dog

When The Hangover was released in theaters two years ago, it was an unprecedented hit. Opening on June 5, 2009, the film went on to make nearly $470 million worldwide, a reign of success for an R-rated comedy not seen since the days of Beverly Hills Cop and other eighties classics. Simply put, The Hangover's success shouldn't have happened, what with the rare diamonds to be found in the comedy business. The film, telling the tale of three emotionally-adolescent men who manage to lose the groom after a particularly raucous Las Vegas bachelor party and wake with no memory of the night before, was so successful that a sequel was not only pondered but practically inevitable. Only two years later we have that product, one of 2011's most awaited summer releases. Reuniting the "Wolfpack" of The Office's Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis (for whom these films have imparted his lifetime role) and Bradley Cooper, The Hangover Part II was made to capitalize on all the good will its predecessor had sown. Of course, I thought the original was an overrated farce with few actual laughs, so would I be impressed by a revamped (and relocated) remake?

Somehow this year's fashion shows amounted to more of the same
This time, the Wolfpack of Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis), Phil (Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on their way to Thailand, where Stu plans to be married to his new fiance Lauren (Jamie Chung) in her family's homeland. After what was supposed to be just a friendly drink between the four and Lauren's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee), Stu, Alan and Phil wake up in Bangkok with no memory of how they arrived there. Worse, they've somehow lost Teddy in the streets of that legendary city, and with only a little time left before Stu must be back to say his "I do". It's business as usual, as the three sort-of-friends unite once more to locate their missing comrade.

Of all the films to make in Bangkok, why this one?
To be honest, if you've seen The Hangover, you pretty much know what is going to happen here as well. The characters are even in on the joke, frantically shouting that it's all happening once more. After the setup that establishes everything you NEED to know, one of the cast disappears. Later, he is found. In between, a LOT of crazy shit goes down. This IS Bangkok after all, and there's a reason the city has the reputation it has gained from popular culture, such as John Burdett's series of novels centered in Bangkok's seedy underbelly. That this only serves to rehash the same schlock over again in a new setting is disappointing, even if some of the scenes are even more outrageous than in the first film. Director Todd Phillips obviously didn't want to mess with a winning formula, but that doesn't excuse the film's lack of courage, as the film only pushes the envelope slightly beyond the same specific boundaries of of the 2009 original.

A monkey replaces the sunglasses-wearing baby, because... you know... you can't shoot babies.
The Hangover Part II also features the return of most of The Hangover's original cast, and that doesn't just mean the heroic trio. Helms, Galifianakis and Cooper all practically live these characters during the film's shooting. Helms plays the perpetually nervous Stu as second nature by now, and of course Cooper is completely at home as rugged ladies man Phil, but neither is very far from their happy medium. The characters are easy for them to portray, so it's not like they had to put a ton of effort into Stu and Phil's personalities. Galifianakis suffers from the same problem, but balances that out by being a million times more entertaining than any of his co-stars. Even if he plays a man who you would never be friends with in a million years were he to exist in real life, you can forgive Alan's silliness when he regularly smacks your funny bone into submission. Possibly the most irreverent film character of the past decade, Alan MAKES The Hangover, and there wouldn't be a sequel without him. Though the women are all but ignored, it's nice to see Jamie Chung in a 2011 film that doesn't COMPLETELY suck (I'm looking at you, Zack Snyder), and she makes a better leading female than Heather Graham ever did. Acclaimed director Ang Lee's son Mason manages his first major role well, though the role of an over-parented wiz-kid son is hardly anything but a cliched role for an Asian teen. Justin Bartha has a slightly larger role in this sequel but doesn't really get to be a part of the main story, and with his mainly uninteresting character that's okay. Finally, villain Ken Jeong returns as an ally to the Wolfpack in Bangkok. Though most find his broken-English speaking criminal offensive, I thought he was the second-funniest part of the entire film. Throw in award-winning performer Paul Giamatti as a an American "business man" and the cast is talented enough to avoid completely embarrassing themselves with the juvenile dialogue and cliched scenarios.

"Oh, WHAT will I do until Due Date 2 comes out??"
One of the worst things I can say about The Hangover Part II is... it's not particularly funny. For the amount of hype and attention the film got, you would expect wall-to-wall laughs, especially considering the material used. Despite the filmmakers' efforts to make everything so much crazier and zanier, the humor largely falls flat, and some sequences are more awkward than anything else. Sure, I got some fun out of watching part deux, but as I was at a midnight release event, I can probably attribute some of that brief gaiety to dehydration (the air conditioners in the theater were offline), exhaustion and sleep deprivation as much as anything on the screen. Sure, the first Hangover struck both box office and critical gold, but if more of the same is all we can look forward to in its sequels, then we should all hope this latest night out is the finale.

1 comment:

jimmygerms said...

you are being far too kind. this movie was awful!!!!