Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Film Review | The Hangover Part II (2011)

It's no surprise after the runaway popularity of 2009's The Hangover that director Todd Phillips attempted to recreate the chemistry and compelling nature of the original in a sequel, imaginatively titled The Hangover Part II. Unfortunately, Phillips' attempt to emulate the success of the first film ends up overwhelmingly as a lesson in how not to put together a comedy sequel.

We rejoin Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Zack Galifianakis) as they travel to Bangkok for Stu's wedding to (non-mail order) Thai bride Lauren (Jamie Chung). Despite Stu taking no chances after the events in Las Vegas and organising a "stag brunch" before they fly, the Wolfpack once again find themselves waking up with one person missing, a variety of physical alterations amongst them and no memory of how anything happened.

If that all sounds quite familiar, that's because it is. Part II is, unfortunately, largely an exercise in recycling jokes and plot devices from the original film. True, there may be differences on the surface - Stu has gained a tattoo instead of losing a tooth; the gang find themselves in the company of a monkey instead of a baby - but these are just the same jokes being told again. The problem is, the success of the jokes in the first film relied heavily on the element of surprise; telling them again unavoidably removes that element, leaving them flat and predictable.

The other major problem I had with Part II was how mean-spirited the whole thing felt. Part of the charm of The Hangover was that the group came across as wild but well-meaning friends who were in way over their heads. Here, that never feels true. Too much of the humour is derived from the writers assuming certain things - people being cruel to each other for no apparent reason, prejudice of one form or another, serious injury, drug-taking - are inherently funny. The film just serves to prove what successful comedy writers already know: they aren't.

Ultimately, The Hangover Part II is far more miss than hit. The main cast do their best, but the film is essentially a rehash of the original with all elements cranked up a few notches, but not for the better. At best, The Hangover Part II is occasionally amusing but far more often repetitive and unoriginal; at worst, it's poorly written and offensive. A third part to the franchise is already in the works, which hopefully will give director Phillips the chance to round things off in a much more positive way than he has left things in this first sequel. If the choice is made to yet again simply ramp up the offensive content using the already tired and formulaic plotline then he may as well take a couple of Alka-Seltzer and put this hangover to bed now.


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