The less things change the more they stay the same.
Ever remember getting a brand-new toy and playing it for hours on end? Then the toy gets an upgrade and you pester mom and dad to get you a new one. At first it feels like the best thing ever. The enjoyment fades after a while once you realize it’s the exact same toy but with a different accessory. The Hangover Part II is like that.
Seriously, it’s the exact same movie but with a different locale, more emphasis on raunchier humor, and a monkey instead of baby Carlos. At least Todd Philips made an exception and instead of a missing groom now the person of interest is Stu’s (Ed Helms) soon to be brother-in-law. That’s if he and the rest of the Wolfpack can find him before Stu gets hitched – again.
When the first Hangover arrived in theaters in 2009 I went on record saying that the word-of-mouth advertising done by moviegoers will make it one of the biggest hits of the summer. Turns out I was right, as the movie went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. It surpassed the likes of Beverly Hills Cop and Wedding Crashers on its way to make more than $467 million worldwide.
What made the original so alluring was its premise. Part guy comedy part mystery, when collided together it allowed for unpredictability with each new wrinkle or misadventure. The whole time we’re wondering what the hell happened the previous night at the bachelor party. Since the three members of the Wolfpack have throbbing headaches and no memory of the night before, they can’t clue us in. They must have had a blast; their Las Vegas penthouse suite was in total disarray and there was a tiger in their bathroom. It was a clever little movie that could have been a slice of noir if you removed the comedy from the equation.
Director Todd Phillips, in awe of his comic achievement, thought so as well. He brought the gang back for a sequel that he co-wrote with longtime collaborator Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin – the original was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The filmmakers, kowtowing to the desires of its audience, decided to give them what they wanted: The Hangover. They’ve already seen it on the big screen. Let’s give it to them again! Only this time it’s in Thailand. Sorry, but Bangkok is no Las Vegas.
You really can’t blame Phillips or Warner Bros. for wanting the Wolfpack back. Anytime a movie hits it big studio executives would like nothing better to greenlight a sequel or two. With The Hangover Part II they were definitely going for a seedy overtone by transplanting the trio to Thailand for a weekend of debauchery. But it loses the unpredictability in how everything unfolds. Like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, it doesn’t quite fit.
But the thing is is that people just love the Wolfpack. If you fall into that group, you’ll be happy to see the three best friends that anybody could have (but probably wouldn’t want in real life). Bradley Cooper assumes the “leader of the pack” role again. Zach Galifianakis serves up so many non-sequitirs you’d think he was tending bar. Ed Helms is once again the “reactor” of the group. So high-strung with this latest hangover episode, he’ll scream and whimper and even bust out a novelty song as the search for answers drags on. Poor Justin Bartha. The missing groom from The Hangover has him sitting by the pool of a seaside resort and fielding calls from the gang. Guess four, not three, is a crowd with this Wolfpack.
The ‘pack are the stars, but this sequel is missing some variety with supporting characters. Not even appearances by Paul Giamatti as a crime boss, or Nick Cassavetes as a tattoo artist offer much in the way of laughs. Watching the gang encounter monks and two-bit Bangkok hoods you begin to miss guys like Rob Riggle and the whole taser episode between him and Galifianakis. Ken Jeong returns as Mr. Chow. He’s funny in spurts (see NBC’s Community), but when he takes up more comedy real estate, like he does here, he can be a real eyesore. It almost makes you wonder how Die Hard 2 would have been if they gave Reginald VelJohnson a larger supporting role.
That’s not to say that The Hangover Part II isn’t devoid of laughs, but there are moments where moviegoers will be sitting silently waiting for something funny to happen. Plus, Thailand is nowhere near as exotic as Las Vegas from a look standpoint, so the comedy gives off a much darker tone allowing for lower-brow humor. The sequel is guaranteed to be a hit its first few weeks of release and will ensure that a third Hangover be made, but for the next installment the crew would be wise to work on some new material and not regurgitate the same setup and hope for the same laughs.
Director: Todd Phillips Notable Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jamie Chung, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Tambor Writer(s): Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong; based on characters created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!