If there was ever a more half hearted attempt at cashing in than The Hangover Part 2, then I’d love to know about it. Even from the trailer, it all looked a little too familiar. But after seeing the final product, it is with great dismay that I confirm that it’s much, much worse than I imagined.
For anyone that hasn’t seen the excellent The Hangover, it follows four friends on a stag night in Las Vegas. Rather than give away events in chronological order, the film almost plays in reverse, with the “wolfpack” waking up and slowly discovering all the crazy shenanigans undertaken the previous night whilst trying to find one of the gang, Doug, who they lost at some point. With likeable characters, laugh out loud scenarios, an ingenious cameo from boxing legend Mike Tyson and an undeniably quotable script, it became a box office hit. In fact, to date, it’s the highest R rated comedy of all time. So it was a no-brainer that a sequel would be green lit, and less than two years later, here we are. Set almost straight after the disastrous events in Las Vegas, Stu, Doug, Alan and Phil set off on another night of mayhem in Thailand in celebration of Stu’s marriage to Lauren, a half Asian, half American beauty. But after one beer, things don’t go as planned and it’s a race against time to find her little brother before the big day.
I’m not going to waste time (too much of it anyway) complaining about how much like the first one it is – it’s a given that it was going to be. The basic outline and narrative arc is pretty much copied, but how the characters act is different. The most disappointing and obvious change is the persona of Alan, the loveable but “not all there” brother of Doug’s wife. Churning out line after line of pure comedy gold in the first movie, here he seems far too restrained and watered down with his remarks. It appears that the majority of humour intended to stem from their previous nights events, most of which are unbelievably crude and unpleasant. It’s a criticism that I found with Phillips’ earlier release, Due Date, and his attempts to shock the viewer into laughing didn’t work on me then and it didn’t work now; all I’ll say is Alan Partridge would love this.
There’s a fine line between giving people what they want to see and just plain imitation. What made the first film so successful could possibly have been the surprising nature of it all, not knowing what they would find next and the unpredictability of the adventures was a huge novelty. Replacing the baby with the monkey, the lost tooth with a tattoo and a lost Doug with a lost relative takes away that factor and ultimately makes the outcome of the gags largely predictable.
Bradley Cooper could arguably be the only real success story from his role in The Hangover: he starred alongside Liam Neeson (who replaced Mel Gibson as the tattooist in this movie, but then he had to drop out due to scheduling issues) in the big screen adaptation of The A Team and more recently had his first leading man role in the impressive Limitless. His character of Phil is the glue for the rest of the group, with his arrogant nature always getting the better of him. Zach Galifianakis has now certified his typecast of “the bearded guy who’s slightly insane” and does provide what little comedy there is here, although there’s no denying that so much more could’ve been done with his reactions to occurrences – at times, the camera just cuts to his face and we’re expected to laugh simply because he’s on screen. Ed Helms’ Stu provides the screaming for all occasions, and he breaks out a guitar at one point to once again sing about the problems they have. Justin Bartha appears to accomplish the impossible, by having less screen time than he had in the first. Ken Jeong makes an irritiating return in Doug’s absence, and we learn more about him and his criminal ways. The group don’t feel like a unit any more though; they simply coast along going through the motions of going to a location that one of them vaguely remembers and facing up to the consequences.
The Hangover Part II is darker, more unpleasant and lacks the charm that filled it predecessor. It has more in common with the 1998 ‘bachelor party gone wrong’ picture Very Bad Things, a movie which I’d unquestionably put above this. It’s a comedy devoid of humour, a buddy movie where the characters don’t come across as friends, but most of all, The Hangover Part 2 is a headache that you just can’t shake.