25 May 2011

Movie Review: The Hangover Part II

Hollywood is addicted to sequels because they are seen as easy money. Sequels capitalize on the affinity that audiences have for characters in popular films.  When it works, audiences flock to see what happens to film faves when placed in another situation.

The Hangover 2 is positioned to be a summer screwball comedy buddy film, using the ever-popular bachelor party goes awry plot.  The first The Hangover was set in Las Vegas, which lends itself to glitzy hedonism with the tag line “What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas” The twist in The Hangover 2 is that it is set in Bangkok, and director Todd Phillips makes sure that the setting visually lives up to its seedy and kinky reputation.

For those who had not seen the first round of Hangover, there were slight allusions to the prior fine predicament.  Frankly, the major thing that such viewers miss is any empathy for the proto-Wolf pack.  Stu (Ed Helms) is a nebbish Los Angeles dentist who is going to get this wedding right and marry his lovely Thai fiancee in her familial homeland.  He is accompanied on this destination wedding by his roguish friend Doug (Justin Bertha) and  Phil (Bradley Cooper), along with the bride’s 16 year old golden boy “Teddy” (Mason Lee, Ang Lee's son), and begrudgingly with the socially maladroit Alan (Zach Galifianakis).

Stu wants to have low key festivities at the Thai resort hotel but is convinced to have one drink on the beach to celebrate his pending nuptuals.  When most of them awake in a hellhole hotel in the Asian City of Angels (a.k.a. Bangkok) with no memory of their nocturnal naughtiness, they need to piece together what happened and how they lost someone (again).

Although fans packed the hallways to see an advanced screening of Hangover 2, even some fans acknowledged that the sequel did not seem as fresh as the first film.  Many of the plot elements seemed like carbon copies of the original.  The producers compensated for the plot familiarity by shock value.  The tattoo on the groom certainly left its mark, but unlike in the first film, they had more to worry about than a missing tooth.  And the private dancers from their night of partying hearty certainly get some prominent screen exposure.

Some of the screwball high jinks were amusing and appropriate for a comedy of errors. Surprisingly, for such a crude comedy, there were few real laugh out loud moments.  While the film was ripe with embarrassment humor, there was also plenty of opportunities to embody the Ugly American badge of dishonor, as well as an array of anti-Asian slurs.  Some of the scenes seemed were played over the top in a bid to become a summer blockbuster.  The denouement seemed too simple to be satisfying and had no resonance.

 As Joe Jackson put it on his Jumpin’ Jive album “What’s the use of getting sober, when you are going to get drunk again.”  So if you were a fan of the first Hangover, or prefer plebeian action comedy buddy films, then rush to the theaters to see Hangover 2.  Like one suffering from a hangover, it is dubious that the film will have strong legs for anything but a brief stand.

The Hangover Part II has an MPAA rating of R and will open nationwide on Thursday May 26th.

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