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Buzz kill: The Hangover Part II

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Over the course of the countless years that I've faithfully served this newspaper as its film critic, never have I received such an outpouring of venomous reader feedback as when I dared to pan 2009's smash hit The Hangover. Doubtless unaware of my love for such raunchy and decidedly non-P.C. titles as There's Something About Mary, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and pretty much anything by Mel Brooks, I was quickly tagged a "pretentious snob" and a "wannabe intellectual" (oh, and let's not forget the all-purpose "tool") for not busting a gut when, say, Zach Galifianakis's bare ass filled the screen or during any of the film's other desperate jabs at meaningful vulgarity. (My favorite G-rated reader putdown: "Am I to assume that you sit in mod-style coffee houses listening to beat poets silently musing how you can knock down the mainstream movie viewers down another notch?" To answer: It depends. Is someone else springing for my coffee?)

So if you're one of those who consider The Hangover the greatest comedy ever made — heck, maybe even the greatest movie ever made — then this review might prove to be entirely useless, as The Hangover Part II stands a wonderful chance of earning your vote as the second greatest comedy ever made. Then again, it's entirely possible you might recognize the sheer laziness that defines this cash-grabbing sequel. Now, of course the bottom line for every sequel is to further line studio coffers, but many follow-ups at least make some sort of effort. Take this week's other sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2 — flawed though it may be, at least there's a sense that its creators took pride in what ended up on screen. But even more than the latest Pirates of the Caribbean romp, The Hangover Part II displays an alarming lack of originality and drive, in essence merely copying the exact same gags, scenarios and, unbelievably, occasional camera shots from the original. It isn't as mean-spirited or misogynistic as its predecessor, and there are a couple more chuckles, but otherwise, the only way future generations will be able to tell the pair apart is that one's set in Las Vegas while the other takes place in Bangkok.

In this outing, Stu (Ed Helms, again the MVP among this motley crew) heads to Thailand to get married and takes buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and, with much reluctance, Alan (the perennially annoying Galifianakis, simply not my cup of comedic tea) with him. It's deja vu all over again, as Phil, Stu and Alan party late and wake up the next morning with no idea of what transpired the night before. Stu has a tattoo on his face, his future brother-in-law (Mason Lee) is missing, and a cigarette-smoking monkey is hanging out in their hotel room. The effeminate Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) returns from the first picture, and there's a cameo appearance (no prize for guessing who) by a celebrity who pops up to mangle the Chess piece "One Night In Bangkok." Liam Neeson was supposed to appear as a tattoo artist (first choice Mel Gibson was quickly nixed), but his busy schedule resulted in Nick Cassavetes landing the gig. Personally, I think a better choice would have been Nicolas Cage, who not only starred in a movie called Bangkok Dangerous but has repeatedly demonstrated that he'll appear in anything as long as the check clears.

Those yearning for some summertime bawdiness at the movies would be well-advised to check out Bridesmaids instead, as any random scene in that picture is better than anything on display in The Hangover Part II. Besides, considering the high cost of tickets, dropping dough on that alternative expenditure means there will be less chance that you'll hate yourself in the morning.

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