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The Hangover 2 Is Way Too Much of the Same, But Should Please Most Fans

The Hangover, Part II
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Phillips, Craig Mazin, and Scot Armstrong
Warner Bros., 2011

There’s a really fantastic scene in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell are on their first pseudo-date, and they start throwing snowballs at kids, and end up falling to the ground, close enough together that the first pulls of romantic tension enter the picture.  So when Murray has to relive the day again, he tries to do exactly what he did the day before.  But he’s all too knowing of the situation, and the snowball fight doesn’t end exactly the same way, and he comes off forcing the issue and looking creepy in the process.  It’s one of the most brilliant scenes in the movie; showing that you might know exactly everything that is going to happen, but you can’t predict or reproduce those little moments that happen by accident.

This often happens with sequels when filmmakers try to recreate the magic of the original.  The filmmakers know what you liked from the original, so they give you more of it in the sequel, forgetting that the small doses came as welcome surprises.  It’s no longer a surprise in the sequel, so those same things, given in larger doses, come off forcing the issue and looking creepy.

In The Hangover, Part II, Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to a red-hot Asian chick named Lauren (Jamie Chung), and the wedding is going to take place on an island resort in Thailand.  Stu is so shell-shocked from all the Vegas hijinks from the first movie that when he invites friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to an IHOP just before their trip, he calls this the bachelor party.  And they were barely invited to the wedding, Stu informs them.  And he’s definitely not inviting that man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to the wedding.  But since Alan is apparently severely hurt by the non-invite, Stu gives in.

So off to Thailand, where all of the pre-wedding festivities are happening, and Lauren pushes her soon-to-be-hubby to have a little fun with his friends.  She asks them to take her 16-year-old brother Teddy (Mason Lee) with them, “because he never has any fun.”  So they all have a little campfire, planning on drinking just a beer or two, and then…yep, it happens again (in fact, the screenplay is about 15% people saying, “I can’t believe this happened again!).

This time they wake up in a hotel room in Bangkok.  Alan swears he didn’t roofy the guys like he did last time.  They don’t have nearly the crazed mess of the first movie, but there is an unexplained monkey, and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is there for some reason, and more terrifyingly, Teddy’s finger is sitting in a pail of water, but there’s no Teddy.  Stu, instead of a missing tooth, has Mike Tyson’s trademark tattoo on his left eye.  Just like the first movie, they have to search their pockets for clues to their whereabouts the previous night, go to the first lead, and proceed from there.  It involves a monastery, a bar, a tattoo parlor, drug dealers, and an international crime lord named Kingsley (Paul Giamatti).

I chuckled a few times in this movie, and much like the original Hangover, it can be entertaining even when it’s not being funny, mainly because the mystery of “what happened last night” fills in the gaps.  This is what the overrated comedy Bridesmaids doesn’t have going for it, which has lazily been compared to The Hangover just because its about events happening around a wedding and has the audacity to be rude and crude.  Bridesmaids has a hard time being fun when it isn’t funny; The Hangover has plot.

However, The Hangover 2 is just so much the same, and the beefing up of characters like Alan and Mr. Chow tends to get annoying.  Like, for instance, when we first meet Alan in this, we see him bossing around and acting a shit towards his parents, who could easily just throw him out of the house.  Stuff like this backfires because instead of being a loveable man-child who doesn’t know any better, it turns Alan into an asshole.  It’s like they decided to turn Alan into Eric Cartman.  Luckily, this character trait doesn’t return.  And Mr. Chow is in this just because he was in the original, and people really like Ken Jeong (I have a feeling that if Jeong wasn’t in the first one, he’d be in this one).  But his function in the plot is way too overblown and doesn’t fit into the main plot at all.  The whole thing involving his character is just so a red herring can be thrown our way.

The setting of Bangkok is also troublesome.  I know the filmmakers wanted to distance themselves from Vegas, so that the movie didn’t look 100% the same, but Vegas has a reputation for these kinds of over-the-top drunken tales.  I’m not sure Bangkok does.  Why not New Orleans?  Still, even if Bangkok is some Asian Vegas, I think there could have been a lot of humor based on “lost in translation” type of stuff.  It seems like everyone out in Bangkok speaks English.  Even the tattoo guy (Nick Cassavetes, taking over for Liam Neeson, who took over for Mel Gibson after the stars of the movie refused to work with him) is a white guy, American transplant.  How convenient.  It seems like the movie could have benefited from a good dose of extra confusion, much like what happens to The Dude in The Big Lebowski, a stoner thrown into the most confusing reality possible.

So, The Hangover, Part II is too much the same, even when they change the setting so drastically.  But, in this day and age, there is this much too irrational fear of changing any part of the formula (see: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), so we couldn’t expect much different here.  Luckily, it’s funny enough that people will like it, but it won’t have the same legs as the first one did, because people will feel like one viewing is enough.  That’s why studios and filmmakers shouldn’t fret about changing things up a bit, because the replay value is so underestimated.  This would have made lots of money anyway.  I know you have a franchise to protect, but you’ve got to distinguish yourselves.  Whenever they decide to make a Hangover 3, that movie is going to suffer because of the tired retreading of the material of this second chapter.  There’s only so many times you can do something before people realize they aren’t going to be surprised anymore.

Also: I know Justin Bartha wasn’t much a part of the first one, because he was missing and the gang was looking for him the whole movie, but there’s no reason for him not to be a part of this second one other than that (again) people were too scared to change anything.  It’s a little disconcerting seeing him drink with his buddies, but somehow dodge all the bad stuff that happens to everyone else in this one.  Yep, this time Doug is safely hanging out at the Thai resort, getting the occasional phone call update.  It’s a cheat.

Follows: The Hangover

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