Review: 'The Hangover Part II' is a Funny Retread of Familiar Ground
by Jeremy Kirk
May 25, 2011
Director Todd Phillips' two best friends are the copy and the paste buttons. To be fair, he's not the only screenwriter on The Hangover Part II, the retread/remake/okay, we'll call it a sequel to the 2009 smash hit, The Hangover. Between Phillips, Scot Armstrong, and Craig Mazin, we can't be sure who clicked copy, who clicked paste and who sorted through it with the replace feature to switch things up just the tiniest bit. In place of Doug, the three leads, Phil, Alan, and Stu, have misplaced Stu's soon-to-be bride's brother. In place of a tiger, we've got a cute monkey. In place of a missing tooth, we've got a face tattoo a la Mike Tyson.
But is The Hangover Part II funny? That's the real key here, right, the one forgivable reason why so many comedy sequels rehash plots of their successors instead of coming up with fresh narrative devices. Yes, it's funny. Probably about as funny as the third, fourth, or even fifth time you watch the original Hangover. Does it make you laugh? Sure. Is it original? Not in the slightest.
This time around - oh, yeah, Vegas has been replaced by Bangkok, Thailand - Stu, played again by Ed Helms, is getting married, and the wolf pack is in tow. But the night before the wedding, our three, irresponsible heroes black out once again. With Stu's would-be brother-in-law, Teddy, missing, the three must once again piece together what happened to them, where the 16-year-old Teddy has disappeared to, and where exactly did that jacket-wearing, smoking monkey come from.
There's a comfort level with being on another adventure with these familiar characters. Phil, played again by Bradley Cooper, is the one who thinks he's cooler than he actually is. Stu is again the paranoid one who thinks all is lost. Alan is the clueless one, the one who mistakes a Buddhist monastery for a P.F. Changs. That's all fine and dandy, but you can't help but get side-tracked by all the familiarity in the structure, as well. There are so many similarities found in The Hangover Part II that it's hard not to wonder why you wouldn't just stay at home and put The Hangover on your TV.
And it isn't even like there are creative ways Phillips, Armstrong, and Mazin recreate certain moments from The Hangover. Even Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow shows up. Did I say show up? I meant to say he is shoe-horned into the script. He's Alan's plus-one for Stu's wedding. Why not, right? When you're dealing with someone as funny as Ken Jeong, it really doesn't matter that he has no natural business being present in the film. Just let all that wash over you and take in the funny, of which The Hangover Part II provides in abundance.
There'd be a lot of lying involved to say this movie isn't funny. These characters and the actors who portray them are funny for the most part. To see them stumbling around when they first wake up from their night of debauchery, to witness Stu/Helms' reaction to the newly acquired tattoo down the left side of his face is very funny. And that, much like The Hangover, is what drives a lot of the comedy in this sequel. The reactions on display are much of the reason why the original film was such a success. And with that success, Phillips and crew heard what their audience was saying as a cry for more. Well, we've got more. Much more.
Of course, there's a bit of a difference in Zach Galifianakis' Alan. He's still every bit as Alan as he was in the first film minus a few scenes near the beginning where he has evidently become an entitled brat. That's odd, but it subsides quickly. For much of the movie, though, it's all Alan all the time. Hardly a scene, maybe even hardly a shot, goes by without Alan saying something absurd, giving someone funny look, or even popping his head in behind another character. Alan was a huge part of The Hangover, to be sure, but it, much like a lot of what drives The Hangover Part II, grows to a point of feeling forced.
But that almost feels like a nitpick when it's spelled out like that. In fact, it almost seems like a nitpick to complain about how similar this is to The Hangover - really, I'm not sure if I'm getting across how many of the same jokes and beats are revisited here. Through all of that, the similarities, the odd projection of Alan's character, even the apparent shoe-horning of Mr. Chow, The Hangover Part II finds a way to make you roll all over that floor and laugh your ass off. Pertaining to the level of velocity with which Phillips and his team write in the jokes, you can't say they didn't try. Those jokes do come in hard and fast and end up pushing the envelope even more so than they did in the first film. Evidently, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok shouldn't even be considered to the unassuming, outside world.
When all is said and done, though, The Hangover Part II allows you to revisit these old friends, but it's not a trip you will remember as fondly as the last time. While it succeeds in making you laugh, uproariously at times, Part II is purely and simply a rehash. Call it nitpicking, but replace the actors, and you could have just as easily have called this thing The Hangover and sell it as a remake. Todd Phillips could have done that with the find and replace feature. It's his third favorite.
Jeremy's Rating: 5.5 out of 10