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Movie Review: The Hangover Part II

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In 2009, Road Trip, Starsky & Hutch and Old School director Todd Phillips took the box office by storm with his hugely successful raunchy comedy, The Hangover, starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha as a bunch of guys who head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party only to wake up the next morning with their hotel room trashed, one of them missing and the rest with no recollection of what happened the night before.

Hardly an original concept – the decidedly darker comedy Very Bad Things had a similar concept, without the no memory angle – but one that worked well as a basis for a wild adventure in its own weird sort of way, with plenty of brilliant jokes, fun hijinks and great characters with a real sense of chemistry between the three main leads.

After becoming a surprise success, it was pretty much inevitable that Phillips and co. would go for round two, even if the true need for one is up for debate. One in-between comedy later – the disappointing Due Date – and The Wolfpack is back. But is it a case of better than ever, or does the sequel just retread old ground without adding anything new?

the hangover part 2Well, it can’t really be said that The Hangover Part II doesn’t bring new things to the table. For one, the setting has changed drastically, from the bright and snazzy lights of America’s playground to “the city of squalor” (aka Thailand’s capital, Bangkok) as a returning Ken Jeong proclaims it. Right away you can tick off in your mind what are going to be a butt of some of the major jokes in the film, and not just because some of the absolute best moments are in the trailer. It’s not hard to see why Thailand was the city of choice this time around…

What hinders this particular comedy sequel is the feeling that the clearly successful team of director, actors and writers are trying their best to one-up themselves at every turn. Everything just has to be bigger, more brash, more in-your-face than we saw in the first one. And while this may be what a sequel should rightfully do – why even bother making another one if you’re not going to try and make it better? – but it’s blatant to the point of distraction that the film is going for shock value laughs rather than genuine ones. Not that there’s anything wrong with that type of audacious joke – some of them here are genuinely hold-your-sides funny – but the first one seemed to understand they work in moderation while this one relies far too much on them.

There’s also a problem of predictability. While the formula at play in the first one felt fresh and unpredictable, in the second one it gives entirely the opposite effect. Although you can’t blame them for just sticking with what worked before – why fix something that isn’t broken, as they say – it takes out a lot of the surprise. So even though we don’t know the specifics of what happened or how things are going to go along, we still know the road and ultimately where things are going to end up. The shocks are in the journey, not in the means of travel or, indeed, the destination.

Once again, the chemistry between the three leads is great, with each of them bringing something different to the proceedings, both complimenting and contrasting each other nicely. It’s no surprise, however, that Galifianakis as the intrusive, dumb, brazen and almost always inappropriate Alan is given the best lines. Whether the butt of the joke or the catalyst for some crazy situation (of which there are so many, almost too many in fact), Alan is always there to provide the best belly laughs. Helms as Stu is once again there as the one who freaks out the most (no wonder, given he gets the worst end of the stick again) and Cooper as Phil is the most straight-faced one whose job it is to keep things together more than anyone else. These inherently basic characters would seem uninteresting if played by less talented comedic actors, for sure.

Ultimately, was there any real need for a sequel to The Hangover? No. The plot is basically the same as the first – with a very different setting being the only drastic change – and the jokes just don’t come along at the same speed or quality as they did the first time around, the film instead relying far too much of the shock and wow factor to get laughs. Redundant it may be but nevertheless if you’re a fan of the first one you’re going to once again have a good time watching this, preferably with a Wolfpack of your very own. Funny enough but not hilarious.

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