Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Hangover Part II

I don't usually agree on movie humor with other people.  I don't know what it is, but I just don't find a lot of movies intentionally funny.  When The Hangover came out in 2009, everyone I knew wanted me to share in the joy of the R-rated comedy and give it a try.  So I did.  It was okay, I'll admit.  I laughed out loud at some of the closing credit pictures and I smiled at many of Zach Galifianakis' awkwardly delivered lines.  While I certainly wasn't blown away --- will someone please explain how Bradley Cooper can headline a successful comedy without cracking jokes? --- I didn't hate it, and it's been a while since I could say that about any blockbuster comedy.  With the shockingly huge success of the film, it came as no surprise when The Hangover Part II was announced.  I will say that I was a little surprised at just how similar the two films appeared to be.


The Hangover Part II, like Part I, is about a bachelor party gone awry.  This time, sweet dentist Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married and has invited the always bland Doug (Justin Bartha), dickhead Phil (Bradley Cooper), and --- against his better judgement --- the always peculiar Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to his wedding in Thailand.  Why?  Because Stu was the only unmarried non-Galifianakis character left after the last film, and a plausible change in location would add variety to the premise.  In theory.  So Stu's new fiance, Lauren (Jamie Chung), happens to be of Thai decent, and getting married in Thailand is very blah blah blah excuses excuses.  Justifiably wary of Doug's bachelor party experience from the last film, Stu is intent on turning in early and making it safe and sound to his wedding.  But then he agrees to one drink on the beach with his buddies and Lauren's little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee).  
*Cue record needle scratch*
The next morning, Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up in a strange shit hole of an apartment in a city they don't recognize.  Alan's head has been shaved, Stu has Mike Tyson's facial tattoo, and there is a monkey with a denim vest in their room.  Oh, and Chow (Ken Jeong) has returned from the first movie and gives audiences a better look at his penis this time.  The guys quickly realize that they have no recollection of the previous night.  Thankfully, they get a phone call from Doug, which means that he didn't get lost this time and the film avoids being an identical copy of the first movie.  Unfortunately, this time they have lost most of Teddy; they did find a finger, but that was not terribly reassuring.  Now they have to once again piece together a night of drug- and alcohol-fueled debauchery to find a friend.  Only this time, it's in Bangkok.
Correction: scenic Bangkok

The acting in The Hangover Part II is both what you expect and what we deserve.  The good news is that nobody (except Jeong) mugs the camera, so nobody gets too annoying.  Bradley Cooper is still a handsome devil, although he doesn't get to be nearly as big of a jerk this time around and, therefore, isn't very entertaining.  He is, however, the most normal character in most of the scenes, so he becomes the rational, easy-to-identify-with character again.  Ed Helms continues to use his most successful comedy personality to date; if you're tired of him playing a milquetoast with some seriously weird stuff repressed, then you're out of luck.
Yeah, I know.  I'm familiar with your filmography.
Zach Galifianakis still has the funniest bits in the movie, but his part is a lot more aggressive and not nearly as awkward and random as in the original movie.  If that sounds like he's a lot less funny this time around...then I expressed myself clearly.  Ken Jeong has a much larger part this time, although he is missing from a chunk of the movie.  While I generally don't like Jeong, I will admit that his ridiculous performance here was in line with the tone of the movie, so he didn't annoy me as much as he usually does.  The only other actor that made an impact in this film was Paul Giamatti, who got to play his bad-guy-who-relishes-being-bad role again; personally, I like that persona and liked seeing him be mean for a few minutes.  The rest of the cast is hardly in the movie at all.  Justin Bartha and Jeffrey Tambor combine for a dozen lines, with maybe one being funny.  Sasha Barrese, Jamie Chung, and Gillian Vigman play the wives of these idiots, but they have even fewer lines and are irrationally forgiving of their husbands.  Mike Tyson shows up again, and it's kind of funny.  Transsexual pornographic actress Yasmin Lee plays a small (but convincing) part as a transsexual stripper/prostitute in one of the edgier/funnier/weirder scenes.  Nick Cassavetes has a small cameo that, while kind of funny, probably would have been more effective if I actually recognized him.  Mason Lee (no relation to Yasmin, but son of Ang) doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but what he does have, he fills with blank stares.
Okay, fine.  He smiles once

I'm not entirely sure what to say about director and co-writer Todd Phillips' work in The Hangover Part II.  Yes, he kept the look and feel of the movie the same as in the original.  Yes, the characters were as consistent as comedic characters need to be.  The change in locale added to the overall harsher feel of this movie --- Bangkok is a scarier place than Las Vegas, and the consequences of this night were far more severe --- and Phillips kept things moving as quickly as he could.  The only problem with that speed is that the plot doesn't make a ton of sense.  Sure, you can follow it, but there aren't as many clues for the audience to decipher this time and parts of the middle act feel like they could have been omitted, shortened, or made twice as long without impacting the larger story one bit.  My favorite comedies are ones that actually make use of the story and situational humor and aren't just excuses for dick jokes, so making the story less important bothered me.
Don't worry.  There are plenty of dick jokes, some including monkeys

But I keep comparing The Hangover Part II to the original film.  How does it stand up on its own?  If you have not seen The Hangover, then you might enjoy this movie.  The monkey is kind of funny, Galifianakis has several small moments, and Ed Helms summarizes the plot through song at a seemingly random moment in the story.  If you like gratuitous nudity in your comedies, there is a strip club scene.  On the other hand, the most memorable nudity was male and played for gross-out laughs, so I suppose your appreciation will depend on your tolerance for that sort of thing.
Above: not a male nudity scene, but it totally could be
The story makes a deliberate point of not explaining some of the most obvious questions stemming from the "lost night," which is appreciated; most movies would have the most outrageous scenes center around those plot points (Alan's head shaving, Teddy's finger loss, etc.), but most of those answers instead came during the credits, as the guys look at some funny pictures.
Pages 60-110 of the script read, "and hijinks ensue"

But what if you have seen The Hangover?  Well, then you've practically already seen The Hangover Part II.  This film borders on being a carbon copy.  The main plot drivers, the main characters, and the types of jokes are all the same (but less funny because you've heard them before), with a few things substituted and updated here and there.  While it is perfectly obvious that this is a clone of the original movie, it is just as clear that Phillips & co. were well aware of that fact when making this movie.  There are a few lines sprinkled throughout the script that point this out, but most of the acknowledgement almost seems metatheatrical.  It's like the main theme of The Hangover Part II is that the movie is ridiculously similar to the outrageously unlikely story in Part I because Hollywood is always rehashing the same crap, over and over again.  And yeah, sure, I can buy that argument, but it isn't funny enough to carry an entire comedic movie.  Personally, that sense of the filmmakers winking through the screen about how clever they are reminds me of the "7211" episode of Sealab 2021, where the joke is that there is no joke.  Only here, the joke is that they're not being original because sequels aren't original.
...until you add an adorable animal/midget/child to the mix
Part of me finds that incredibly annoying.  I don't particularly like feeling insulted, and the blatant "this is what sequels do" attitude felt like the filmmakers were mocking me for watching their movie.
This is exactly how I envisioned Phillips watching me watch this movie
The other part of me remembers Todd Phillips' IMDb credits include exclusively stupid movies, so the likelihood of him purposefully insulting his audience is pretty unlikely.  Alright, rational mind, you win this round.  Still, that doesn't make The Hangover Part II a good movie.  It's not awful, but it is missing most of the things that made the first one funny, like warmth, truly unexpected twists, and awkwardness.

8 comments:

  1. When this movie was first announced, I heard a Bradley Cooper interview. He said they all had no intention of doing a sequel, but this script was just too good. Then he said the moon was made of cheese. Man, I could go for some moon cheese.

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    1. Apparently, Bradley Cooper confuses the words "script" and "paycheck"

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    2. Moon cheese does sound amazing right now.

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  2. Did you miss Hated (the G.G. Allin doc) on his IMDB page? That movie was certainly something, not sure what exactly, but I don't know if I'd call it stupid.

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    1. To be honest, I overlooked his documentary work and focused on his comedy stuff. I haven't seen Hated, but I trust your opinion that it's not stupid; given what I know about GG Allin, I'm sure "something" is a far better description than "stupid."

      I don't really watch many documentaries. Is Hated worth a shot?

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  3. For obvious reasons I haven't watched it in a while. Interesting stuff though, like it's hard to believe that a lot of the people in the movie are even real. Almost like a punk rock version of This is Spinal Tap, but completely in earnest (and gross.) Not a movie to watch during dinner.

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  4. Also, King of Kong is an excellent doc.

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  5. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers stripping on my desktop.

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