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The Hangover: Part II (2011)
Movie Reviews

The Hangover: Part II (2011)

A tepid comedy that suffers from a serious lack of imagination, recycling every major plot point from the superior smash-hit original.

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One of the great failures of The Hangover Part II is that no one even attempted to make it original. Instead, director Todd Phillips settles for the path of least resistance and rehashes the exact same plot of the first movie. How is it possible that again the Wolfpack travels to a wedding away from home, and again they get drugged, and again they wake up in a strange place with no memory of the previous night’s events, and again lose an important person, and again must piece together the clues, and again find themselves embroiled in someone else’s criminal activity? This is one of those plots that I can buy into only once. Anything more than that, and you have the same monotonous repetition that drives a teen-slasher franchise. God forbid they should make The Hangover Part III. In 3D, no doubt.

The other great failure is that it isn’t very funny. It’s immature, crude, obnoxious, and at times, offensive. I’m afraid I have to recuse myself here since I pretty much felt the same way about the first movie, and this is in spite of its widespread critical acclaim, its box office return of over $480 million, and its Golden Globe win for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. I did, however, end up recommending it, simply because I found the plot and some of the characters engaging. And so again, we come back to the subject of originality; no matter how tasteless I find a comedy, I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt if at least it tries something new. The Hangover was not my cup of tea as far as its sense of humor was concerned, but the story kept me going.

I cannot say the same thing for Part II. Since the events of the first film, dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms) has dumped his controlling, mean-spirited girlfriend (played in the first film by Rachael Harris) and gotten engaged to the sweet, lovely Lauren (Jamie Chung). The wedding, it’s decided, will be held in Thailand, the home of Lauren’s parents. Immediately invited to attend are Stu’s friends Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Justin Bartha (Doug Billings); it takes a lot more convincing for Stu to ask Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), who, you may recall, kick started the events of the first movie by slipping a roofie into everyone’s drink. Once they all arrive in Thailand, Alan, for reasons known only to him, feels threatened by the inclusion of Lauren’s sixteen-year-old brother, Teddy (Mason Lee, son of Ang), who’s already pre-med and can play the cello.

A few nights before the wedding, Stu agrees to one more drink with Alan and Phil, which was only supposed to last for twenty minutes or so. In an act of goodwill, they bring Teddy along. Naturally, things don’t go as planned; the next morning, the three men awaken in a filthy hotel room in Bangkok hung over and with no memory of how they got there. Alan’s head has been shaved. Stu’s face is adorned with Mike Tyson’s trademark tattoo. A capuchin monkey wearing a tiny Rolling Stones vest swings from the pipes on the ceiling. A severed finger is found on ice. And worst of all, Teddy is nowhere to be found. As the Wolfpack frantically retraces their steps, they will be reunited with Asian mobster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), get saddled with a wheelchair-bound Buddhist monk, cross paths with a very specific category of Thai strippers, and be threatened by an American crime boss (Paul Giamatti).

I’ve put up with it for a few films, but I feel I must now break my silence and admit that I just don’t get Zach Galifianakis. Why does he always have to play the clueless man-child? Why does his dialogue have to consist almost entirely of inappropriate comments and deadpan non-sequiturs? Many of his characters are defined by passive aggressiveness and social ineptitude; both are not only painfully unoriginal, they also become tiresome in a very, very short period of time. As Alan – and as Ethan Tremblay from Due Date, Therman Murch from Dinner for Schmucks, and even Jerry in Youth in Revolt – he makes himself so thoroughly unlikeable that it’s impossible to stay invested with him all the way through to the end. He’s just plain odd.

Apart from him, the film suffers from a serious lack of imagination. There’s more to this than the recycled plot. Why, for example, does Lauren’s father have to be an overprotective snob who, true to the Asian stereotype, pressures his son into academic achievements? Why is the monkey yet another case of forcing an exotic animal to exhibit human quirks, such as smoking cigarettes? There’s nothing innately funny about cigarette smoking, and somehow, it’s even less funny when it’s being done by an animal. Why does an appearance by Ken Jeong inevitably start with a shot of full frontal nudity and a sophomoric gag about his penis? Just wait until you hear how a comparison to a shiitake mushroom is worked in. The Hangover Part II is a lot of things, but entertaining is not one of them.

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05/26/2011

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R

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Warner Bros. Pictures

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi