Words almost fail me as I sit down to review The Hangover Part II. Whereas the first Hangover was a very funny – if perhaps unnecessarily long – journey into the heart of raunchiness, filled with memorable characters and surprising situations, The Hangover Part II is merely… The Hangover. It’s the exact same film with the exact same characters going through the exact same motions as before. This is the worst kind of sequel: the kind that simply remakes the first film, offering only recycled jokes and characters who refuse to change for fear of disrupting the comedy dynamic. It’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York but with penises, and that’s a very, very bad thing.
Ed Helms takes center stage this time as Stu, a man who is about to get married and, after the events of the previous film, has no interest whatsoever in a bachelor party. But fate takes Stu, along with returning stars Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianikis) to Bangkok, where an innocent couple of beers turns into yet another impossibly crazed night on the town. When they wake up they discover a severed finger, a monkey, and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) from the first film, who promptly dies of a cocaine overdose before he can reveal the events that led them astray. And so, once again, they embark on a journey to put the pieces together and rescue a friend – this time Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee) – before the wedding is ruined.
Switching Las Vegas for Bangkok, Teddy for Doug (Justin Bartha) and a monkey for a baby somehow qualifies as a “Part II” in this world, which is probably the funniest part of the movie. The Hangover Part II is offensively familiar, to the extent that one wonders why they even bothered making it. (Besides the money, obviously.) Re-releasing the first film would have had the same comedic effect. Stu once again deals with a mutilated face, Alan once again connects with a tiny person-type-thing, there’s a dramatic hostage exchange (once again) and the big revelation of where Teddy actually was the whole time is unbearably similar to Doug’s fate in the original film. The movie ends with yet another montage of pictures from their fateful night. That there are a few genuine gutbusters is reaching for a compliment. This is low, low comedy… not because of the gross-out humor – of which there is much – but because of an aggressive lack of ideas.
When I say ‘aggressive’ I mean that director Todd Philips, working with screenwriters Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, seem bizarrely committed to doing the same thing over and over again. Doug joins our heroes in Bangkok, for example, but has no part in the plot. His presence could have given The Hangover Part II a new dynamic, since he would have been the only character who doesn’t react with a repeated “How could the same thing happen twice?” line of dialogue. Instead we get the same crew going through the exact same interactions: hating Alan, learning to like Alan, Stu suffering after learning that he’s not as milquetoast as he once believed, and Phil doing nothing of consequence. Bradley Cooper is particularly wasted in the film (no pun intended), which odd since you’d think his recent rise to superstardom would have earned him a bigger role, or at least something resembling a subplot.
From a technical perspective The Hangover Part II is simply mediocre, doing nothing fresh or original and relying on gross-out gags instead of a single original comedic idea. But the lack of creativity in place here, and the complete willingness of the filmmakers to simply recycle the first film for content rather than actually make a “Part II” is easily the most insulting part of the production. Despite cinematic competence and a winning comedy dynamic between our heroes, this film is nothing to be celebrated. Condemnation seems like the way to go. A ‘bad’ movie would have almost been nice, since it would have meant that someone at least tried to do something new, even if they failed. Comedy is based on the unexpected, and absolutely nothing in The Hangover Part II qualifies, aside from the occasional unexpected penis. It’s a pretty insulting movie, not in the way it intended, and should not be praised even if, once in a while, it actually makes you laugh.
Crave Online Rating: 2.5/10