Art, Movies, Lit, Theater

‘Hangover’ Doubles Down

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Review: From the same well,
but still funny

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, or at least that’s what the song says. Of course that song is about chess, so if the city has the power to shake up the board-game set imagine what it has in store for those who engage in intense drunken debauchery.

The sequel to the surprise comedy hit “The Hangover” transports the cast from Las Vegas, Nevada to Bangkok, Thailand to severely up the ante on the hilarious premise of a wild night gone horribly wrong.

Look, the very act of making a sequel to “The Hangover” is a lose-lose proposition creatively (financially it’s genius, which is why we are here in the first place). The first movie operated on a very specific premise of a group of guys getting insanely intoxicated, then waking up the next morning with no memory of the previous night. They must then suffer the consequences of all their un-remembered actions while searching for a lost friend.

This leaves “The Hangover Part II” with two options: either repeat this very specific scenario in a different location and be accused of self-plagiarism, or take the same characters and try to concoct an entirely different set of circumstances for them to deal with and risk coming to terms with the fact that the success of the first film was almost entirely dependant on the premise itself. Yikes.

The creators went with Option 1 and while yes they have made the exact same movie all over again, they at least went for broke by doubling down on the outrageousness.

“The Hangover Part II” reunites the Wolf Pack, a group of friends made of up the self-assured and cocky Phil (Bradley Cooper), tightly-wound dentist Stu (Ed Helms) and oddball man-boy Alan (Zach Galifianakis).

This time it is Stu who is getting married in beautiful Thailand and he swears off a bachelor party after things went so haywire in Vegas. But the night before the wedding Stu relents and agrees to drink one beer from a sealed bottle.

Cut to the next morning where Phil, Stu and Alan awake in a dingy hotel room in Bangkok where they come to realize that they have lost Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee), a 16-year-old med student. Also popping up as they boys try to retrace their steps and find Teddy is the scene-stealing Ken Jeong who reprises his role as bizarre, international criminal Mr. Chow.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohF5ZO_zOYU[/youtube]

“The Hangover” was an unquestionably funny movie, but there was a joyful pleasure in watching the movie unfold, having no idea where it was going to take you.
 “The Hangover Part II” is just as funny as the original, but the joy is completely gone as there really aren’t many surprises to be had.

There’s also a darker edge this time around which I think can be mostly attributed to the change in venue. While things can most assuredly get out of hand in Las Vegas, there is still a safety net of order and control lurking under they shiny veneer of the city. It’s like the Disney version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Bangkok on the other hand has no safety net while testing the limits of human depravity, which means the misadventures of the Wolf Pack this time around are not for the faint of heart.

It’s really pretty simple, if you laughed at the first “The Hangover,” you will most assuredly laugh at “The Hangover Part II.” I laughed a lot and loudly throughout this movie, and even though the magic is gone, I at least appreciated the effort put in by director Todd Phillips in this doomed enterprise.

I enjoy these characters and I enjoy watching them get smacked around to the point I’m willing to forgive a stunning lack of originality. That said I’m pretty sure I won’t be so quick to forgive if we go to the well for a “Hangover Part III.” I just can’t buy that all of this could happen again, again.

“The Hangover Part II” is rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images which are basically all the reasons to rate a movie R.

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