What made the original Hangover so fantastic was how it came from nowhere. It was advertised as a typical gross out comedy, but was actually a tightly scripted film containing very funny performances, surprising cameos, and a premise that didn’t outright insult its audience. It deserves comparison to such comedy classics as Animal House.
The Hangover Part II has none of that. The film is more or less a remake of the first one, the characters (particularly Allan) are far more loathsome, and it often descends into the exact schlock that the first one managed to avoid. Yes, there are still some laughs, particularly when the film decides to actually surprise us. But, for the most part, The Hangover Part II feels like it is incessantly pandering to its audience. “Did summer crowds like the first one?” the executives are saying “Fine, let’s give them the exact same film. We’ll make a mint!” And I have no doubt that they will. What they did not do is create the same enduring classic that they had the first time around.
The story is easy to tell. Take the plot of The Hangover. With me so far? OK, replace Doug the groom with Stu (Ed Helms), replace the bride with a beautiful Thai woman named Lauren (Jamie Chung) Vegas with Bangkok, and replace the lost buddy with Lauren’s younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee). I am aware there is probably a grammar error in the preceding sentence, but simplicity is key. You now pretty much have The Hangover, Part II.
When I say that the film is exactly like the first one, I really do mean it. The opening scene mirrors the opening scene of the first one to the letter. We have a scene of Stu’s face becoming deformed, a scene in which the characters are confronted by gangsters, a scene in which the characters stage a break in to an enclosed dwelling, even a scene in which Mr Chow exposes himself to the audience. Even the solution to the problem is played the exact same. Now, to be fair, the solution to the mystery is not the same. But by that point, it is too little, too late.
The film actually becomes a lot funnier during the few times it decides to break formula and throw curve balls at the audience. The famous actor they have hired provides some laughs with his presence. And there is a scene with a Bangkok sex worker that….well, I have probably already said to much. It was quite gross, but also very memorable because there is no corresponding scene present in the first one. There is a rather funny car chase late in the film. But for the most part, it feels as though all the screenwriters did was use the replace function on the original script several hundred times over a long weekend.
Even some of the characters have become rather distasteful in the transition. Allan, who was a wonderful idiot savant in the first one, is introduced here as an entitled, bratty man-child who barks orders at his mother. He actually returns to his normal self after a night of heavy drinking. Doug is present, but barely mentioned at all (considering his wife is pregnant, I expected to hear more from him…it would have actually been quite a change if he went along with the rest of the gang). And, although Mason Lee does the best he can with the material, his character is not really expanded upon past his initial introduction. Also, no one ever seems to comment on the fact that he is missing a finger, but never mind. He himself does not really seem to notice, or even care.
There is one other aspect about this film that I missed. By the end of the first Hangover we had a sense of what the group had been through. Here, we are left no wiser about their plight. We get some bits and pieces, a few disjointed clues, but not enough to figure everything out. I could not explain to you what the characters did during their drunken orgy, and I doubt that they could either. We do not really linger on anything that happened – something happens, and the characters quickly move on. Again, it feels as though they need to recreate the trip from the first film and not make it a unique event. There was no point on staying anything too long, as audiences had already seen it.
In some ways, I am glad that this film exists. It reminds me how special the first Hangover was. It was the ultimate sleeper hit, one that found a massive audience not because of it’s ad campaign, but because it was really good. This film demonstrates how wrong it all could have gone. It is not that I do not think the cast or Todd Phillips are not funny. I would have loved to seen them work together again. What I did not want to see is them working on something they had already made before. This sequel reminds me of the worst aspects of the summer, in which artistic quality is sacrificed to the whim of executives.