Hangover Part II, TheReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 05/26/11 00:49:12
Todd Phillips is the worst comedy director working today. You may have seen me say that before. But there is no more appropriate way to begin this review. For one, it points out something that should be obvious to anyone who has any insight into the craft of comedy. Craft being the all-important word, since any jackass can do something stupid and produce a spontaneous chuckle. More to the point of the present though, revisiting that statement is just par for the course since Phillips is intent on doing the same. The difference is that you can read this review for free while he is hoping you spend $10 to see the exact same movie. Honestly, the only thing Part II is missing is an obvious greenscreen substituting Bangkok for Vegas and the outraged geek from Chasing Amy to call Phillips "a fucking tracer." Because that is what he is and he's tracing a turd to begin with.Beginning just as we did back in 2009, Phil (Bradley Cooper) is forced to make a phone call saying that him and his buddies have screwed up again. The new Hangover drinking game will involve taking a shot every time someone says they think it's happening again. Maybe not verbatim. This time it is mild-mannered dentist, Stu (Ed Helms) walking down the aisle. His Vegas wife from the first film (played by Heather Graham) is seen only as a posterized version from the sin city photo album and referred to as "a whore" by the guy who once chastized Stu for saying such a nasty thing about "a nice lady." Remember him? That's Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the man-child brother-in-law of original groom, Doug (Justin Bartha), who coaxes his pal to invite him to the wedding despite having drugged him the first time around.
The foursome head for Thailand with an unwelcome fifth wheel in Teddy (Mason Lee), the brother of the bride (Jamie Chung). At least, unwelcome by Alan who sees this as an intrusion into the fabled wolfpack. After what appears to be a harmless beer by campfire, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up once again out of sorts in a rundown Bangkok hotel with no memory of the previous evening. Alan's head is shaved, Stu is sporting Mike Tyson's tribal tattoo on his face and this time it is Teddy that is missing. Though not his finger which remains in the room along with a naked Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), whom Alan has kept in touch with since their Vegas adventure.
Those who have considered themselves a honorary part of Alan's wolfpack menagerie (or just bought one of the T-shirts in Vegas) know what happens next. Seriously, you know what happens next because you saw it in the first film already. Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong have not even attempted to give even the loyal fans something new to laugh at. On purely the level of a lifeguard looking out for everyone who doesn't believe there is a shark in the water, at least observe the dangers before dipping your toes in:
- Instead of baby masturbation, Alan's "look, guys" moment is making a monk boner out of a water bottle.
- The police station tazering becomes a relentless beating by monks that should be writing residual checks to the Blues Brothers' "penguin."
- Instead of stealing a tiger, the guys nab a monk. And a monkey.
- Stu hooks up with another stripper (with a twist.)
- Instead of a car ramming broadside into Phil unexpectedly, it is two guys on a motorcycle with a helmet.
- As things spin out of control, Alan confesses to knowing more about what happened then he let on, selfishly responsible once again.
- Stu performs an impromptu song detailing the events up to that point.
- Mr. Chow jumps out of a closed containment and starts beating on Phil, Stu and Alan. His micro-penis has also been elevated from cameo to full on guest star.
- The guys need to produce money (in the form of a bank code) for a criminal (inexplicably played by Paul Giamatti) in order to get their missing friend back.
- Just when they think they have that friend back, it turns out to be someone else mistaken for him.
- Stu pieces together the mystery to where their missing friend is.
- Mike Tyson sings again
- At the wedding, Stu gets to tell off someone who was a big jerk to him.
- Instead of a self-mutilated tooth, it is a self-mutilated finger graphically displayed during the end credit photo montage.
The Hangover Part II is the equivalent of a drunk college student waking up the morning their book report is due and desperately trying to remember what they saw in the crappy movie version. Maybe everyone who turned the original into the highest grossing comedy of all-time will take a hard look at the sheared sheep in sheep's clothing this time and realize how little wool there was to begin with. No film in my dozen years as a professional critic have I received more flack for not liking (from readers and generally anyone I run into) than The Hangover; a film whose trailer actually made me laugh despite the knowledge of who was helming it. Laughter can be an involuntarily impulse though. You cannot sit there and choose not to laugh as I have done with everything from Dr. Strangelove to Jackass. So if the world wants to tell me that The Hangover is the funniest film ever and I cannot tell them they need to see more flms, that's fine. But do not mistake spontaneous guffaws for sheer effort, which is just one of the multitude of areas that both films (and particularly the sequel) fails in a truly cynical fashion.
What began two years ago as a rather inspired idea for a comic mystery was quickly flushed of all inspiration by a director who chose to go for easy jokes rather than play within the reality of the situation. Why explain the comic intricacies a valeting a cop car in street clothes and getting a tiger through a casino when you can show an old man's ass and pop a tit out? Date Night looks like the very symbol of comic ingenuity in retrospect and that was made by another hack in the Phillips vein (Shawn Levy). A big difference between the Hangovers and that film though are having generally likable characters played by very likable and funny comic professionals. That is no knock on Ed Helms (very funny on The Office) or Zach Galifianakis (very funny in anything not a movie), but they are playing characters somewhat deserving of their fate.
How Helms' Stu was ever a friend of Cooper's Phil has never made much sense. And Zach's Alan, which he might refer to himself as being a couple IQ points away from being a ra-TARD, is also a pretty unforgivable jerk. His childish way of thinking that may or may not mask a genius may have worked for some in the first film (despite Phillips having no clue how to develop that character.) In Part II, he is a mean, vindictive personality equatable to a grown-up Eric Cartman on anti-depressants. (Does anyone bother to tell the accusatorial former bride that her brother is a real dick and everything is always his fault?) And when his secrets are revealed (again) he is due for a beatdown of Gaspar Noe proportions, but instead all is forgiven by the next scene. A simple rule of comedy that Todd Phillips has never learned is that a likable character can get away with the simplest of jokes, which is kind of crucial to his limited expertise on the subject.
He also doesn't appear all that versed in the concept of cameos either. It has still never been explained how Snoop Dogg had time to show at a stereo salesman's party in Old School, let alone know the guy. In The Hangover Part II, a brouhaha reportedly developed amongst members of the cast and crew when Mel Gibson was coming in to shoot a small role as a tattoo artist. Who needs him and his questionable words and attitude when you can bring back a convicted rapist, right? Nevertheless, Gibson was replaced with Liam Neeson and the scene was shot. Then, Phillips needed to do reshoots on the scene (cause it was probably funny) and Neeson wasn't available. So who does he bring in? Nick Cassavetes. That's right, we have gone from Braveheart to Rob Roy to the tough guy who directed The Notebook and My Sister's Keeper. Whatever desperation there was at play to fill that part, the fact of the matter is that the scene is not funny as written and would only produce a spontaneous chuckle with either Neeson's deadpan seriousness telling the guys about the size a little boy's balls or Gibson's natural comic instincts. Putting Cassavetes there is as big a comic statement as casting Henry Rollins as a muscle-bound, tatted-up sleaze. When all is said and done, the best thing to happen to Mel Gibson in 2011 was not being in this film.The insistence that either of The Hangover films have some sort of dark edge to them is about as ludicrous as putting the work of Todd Phillips on the same level of what the Apatow entourage have been doing so successfully for years. This is not Scorsese's After Hours or even the manic silliness of Bachelor Party. Darkness implies danger and if Phillips couldn't find it Vegas, the exotic Bangkok should have been a no-brainer even for a no-brainer. Repeatedly using the phrase "Bangkok has him now" is not enough. Bangkok has to become a character itself with mysterious corners, culture incomprehensible to our weary heroes and a sense that even without the mikki finn they would still be lost. Knowing Phillips though, he chose to set the movie there because it has a funny name. To use the most obvious metaphor, The Hangover was the film everyone got drunk on and had a good time with. Now, you are two years older, the alcohol looks the same but doesn't taste so and all you can think of the next morning is how much you spent on a couple hours you cannot remember anyway.
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