The biggest complaint leveled against The Hangover Part II is that it’s a carbon copy of the original film, the 2009 surprise hit that went on to gross nearly ten times its budget at the US box office.
No surprise: Part II is virtually the same film as the first one. But can you honestly say you expected anything different?
For the sequel, the budget has been doubled, the setting changed from Las Vegas to Thailand, and the boundaries of comedy pushed even further – the violence is sometimes so harsh you wonder if the filmmakers are really going for a laugh (they are, of course; but you, like me, might be wondering how far bad taste can go.)
Plotwise, nothing has changed: the same group of people find themselves in the same exact situation, which was unlikely enough the first time around.
Depending on your affinity for the material, you may feel that this plot retread represents: a) another creatively bankrupt sequel from filmmakers that don’t have any better ideas; b) a quick cash grab from disingenuous filmmakers that know exactly what they’re doing; or c) “No way, again?! LOL.” I’m not so sure where I stand.
The Hangover Part II is frequently very funny, and if it doesn’t quite match the first film, it’s plenty better than what we usually get. It’s about on par with director Todd Phillips’ last film, Due Date.
“The Wolfpack” is back, as Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha) gather in Thailand for Stu’s marriage to Lauren (Jamie Chung). There’s no bachelor party this time around – the memory of “last time” still fresh in Stu’s mind – but a beer down on the beach leads to very bad things and Phil, Alan (with a shaved head), Stu (sporting a Mike Tyson face tattoo) wake up in a decrepit Bangkok hotel room with a terrible hangover and no memory of the previous night.
And someone’s missing – no, not Doug, that would be too close to the first film (Doug is fine, back at the resort, as Bartha again gets screwed out of screen time). It’s Lauren’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee), whose finger the boys find amongst the carnage in the hotel room.
And there’s also – no, not a baby – this time it’s a Capuchin monkey in a jean jacket (the monkey, by the way, steals the show). As the boys search for clues, retrace their steps from the previous night in search of Teddy, and frequently decry how “it’s happened, again!” we are, indeed, reminded of the original. Beat by beat, in some instances.
But if you can accept the blatant similarities as part of a joke the filmmakers are in on – lazy and crass as it might be – you’re likely to have fun here.
For me, the (few) original bits saved the film. A meditation-induced memory sequence – where we witness the world of the previous night through Alan’s eyes – is uproarious. The presentation of Bangkok – a cesspool of monks, ladyboys, and dope-dealing monkeys – is so stereotypical it borders on the surreal.
There are some fun cameos by director Nick Cassavetes, transvestite pornstar Yasmin Lee, and, again, Mike Tyson (meanwhile, Paul Giamatti and Ken Jeong, reprising his role from the previous film, fail to make much of an impact).
No, The Hangover Part II isn’t great cinema. And yeah, it lives in the shadow of its predecessor. But the laughs are still here.