The Hangover Part II
Both The Hangover Part II’s strengths and weaknesses come from the same obvious issue – it’s a sequel to a surprise hit. The original set the bar for fans of the “wolfpack”, and there are plenty of ways the new events could have unfolded. The filmmakers, however, chose to essentially recreate the first movie with more jokes and more extreme situations. Though this pulls back from the movie a bit, how else were they supposed to have Zach Galifianakis’s character believably join forces with the gang again? And though the events in the Hangover series are way beyond suspension of disbelief by now, the story works and the laughs follow.
This time around, Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married in Thailand. Phil (Bradley Cooper) is not only mad about the long flight, but also about Stu’s decision to not have a bachelor party. Though Stu was reluctant to invite him, Alan (Zack Galifianakis) joins in the festivities. After “one drink” Stu, Phil, and Alan once again wake up, this time in Bangkok with another comedy animal in tow and no clue as to what happened to night before. Once again, the trio must piece the puzzle together using info gathered from witnesses to their night of mayhem.
Given his obvious natural ability for broad comedy, it’s hard to believe that just two years ago Zach Galifianakis wasn’t a household name, responsible for so many of the laughs in the original. Here he shines, giving quite possibly the best performance in the movie. Helms and Cooper portray their old characters well, too. Even Ken Jeong reprises his role as Mr. Chow to hilarious effect, at times outshining the wolfpack.
Yes, the structure is a carbon copy and many of the jokes from the first film have been recycled. The tiger and the baby from the original have been combined into a drug dealing monkey. Stu doesn’t lose a tooth, but there is a mirror for that gag and most of the other jokes as well, and though often re-used they still shock and the odd one even works better the second time around. Most of the time the sequel simply ups the ante and any viewer expecting anything more has stepped into the wrong picture.
At times The Hangover Part II gets away with things director Todd Phillips may have been slightly afraid to include in the first film. Many of the jokes are crude, juvenile, and often scatological, but so were the jokes in the first film. This time they are just more outrageous. For anyone on board with the wolfpack, the movie won’t disappoint. It may even bring in some new fans.
Yet ultimately it’s hard to not give any fault to the lack of creativity in the film’s structure. It works most of the time, but occasionally it all seems a little forced. If they come around for a Part III (all but a certainty) the trilogy will probably suffer greatly from a rehashing of old material. But for now, Part II is about as laugh filled as a comedy can get, and in a few ways stronger than its predecessor. Albeit not as fresh or original.