In a season infested with one expensive blockbuster, week after week, The Hangover was an anomaly: A low budget ($35 million), R-rated comedy with no established stars. But with a hilarious and clever “mystery” plot centering on three guys who have to retrace their steps after a drunken night in Vegas, an impressive marketing campaign, fantastic reviews and phenomenal word-of-mouth, it surprised even the most optimistic of prognosticators to become a phenomenon, eventually grossing an incredible $467 million worldwide to become the highest grossing comedy of all time. Naturally, when a comedy makes that much money, a sequel was inevitable.
Now, two years later, The Hangover Part 2 hits cinemas all across the world to continue the drunken adventures of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). While I didn’t expect the sequel to be as good as the original (very few are), I do give it props for being an entertaining ride with quite a few hilarious gags. But here’s the issue. The Hangover Part 2 is less of a sequel and more of a remake of the first film –with the action moved from Las Vegas to Bangkok. In fact, the two films are so similar that they even share the same structure (down to the opening scene, the ending and big reveal) and even jokes from the first film. Because of this, a lot of the surprise value is eliminated and thus, the excitement too. I get the saying, “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it” but after watching this film, I walked out feeling cheated.
Like the first film, the sequel also revolves around a wedding – this time, of Stu, the soft-spoken dentist, who after losing a tooth and hooking up with a stripper at the end of the first film, has finally manned up and found himself a gorgeous Thai woman (not a mail-order bride thankfully). Joining Stu and his fiancé at the wedding gala at a beautiful resort in Thailand are Phil, Doug (who was the one lost in the first one), Stu’s fiancé’s 17-year-old brother, Teddy (Mason Lee) and to everyone’s dismay, Alan – the idiotic man-child who was the one responsible for all the debauchery in the first one. Since Stu is still tortured by the events in Vegas and is seriously intimidated by his fiancé’s asshole father (who doesn’t hide his resentment towards Stu), he makes sure there aren’t going to be any bachelor parties this time around. But just like the first film, a few drinks on the beach leads to night of insanity none of them remember.
When the trio wakes up in the next morning, they’re not on the beach but in a nasty hotel room in Bangkok! Alan is bald, Stu has his teeth intact but has a garish Mike Tyson tattoo on his face while Chow (Ken Jeong), the annoying Asian gangster from the first film is lying naked in their living room. Making things worse is that there’s a chain-smoking monkey with a Rolling Stones jacket in their room while the only sign of young Teddy is a dismembered finger in an ice bucket!
With no recollection of how they got there, the “Wolfpack” set out to find Teddy, like how they set out to find Doug in the first film. Speaking of Doug, he conveniently skips out on the festivities once again, stating that he left the beach early. Lame! Like the first film, the trio has 36 hours or so to find their missing friend before the wedding. To do that, they’ll have to go through the darkest underbelly of the Thai capital which includes trips to monasteries where monks beat the crap out of them, strip clubs and brothels where the prostitutes hide BIG secrets, Russian gangsters, drug mules, a crazy Paul Giamatti who plays an underworld drug lord.
As I stated earlier, a lot of this sequel feels like a remake of the original with a lot of the setup and structure mimicking the original’s plot. Instead of a missing tooth, Stu gets a tattoo on his face. Instead of a baby, we have a lost mute monk. Instead of a tiger, we have the little monkey this time. Instead of a stripper, it’s a prostitute. Mr. Chow is back again, running about naked as usual. The crew is once again involved in a car chase. They also, once again, run afoul of gangsters who claim to have kidnapped their friend. Stu once again has to stand up against someone who degrades him and he once again sings a song! See what I mean! It’s a remake with the same structure but different jokes. Some people may like their movies recycled but I’d like to see something a bit different. Granted, the seediness is definitely amped this time around. This sequel is far darker than the original with some scenes actually being disturbing. But overall, it’s the same movie.
What saves it from being a disaster is that many of the jokes are actually funny (which is all that matters for many people – not originality), it’s exceedingly well shot (cinematographer Lawrence Sher does a great job at amplifying the seedy aspects of Bangkok – it’s dark, gritty, hot and sweaty) and the chemistry between the three stars are once again excellent. Cooper, who has become a bonafide superstar since the first film, is charismatic as Phil, the de-facto leader of the pack. Helms is probably the film’s best performer as Stu, the dentist whose dark side reveals itself whenever he drinks while Galifianakis, the breakout star of the original is once again, the scene stealer. One sore part in the acting department was Ken Jeong who seriously needs to realize that his grating ghetto-speak shtick is tiresome and over!
Although I found The Hangover Part 2 to be an enjoyable film with a few big laughs, it is too much like the first film. While you may assume that is a good thing, it’s to a fault. Gone is the surprise value, the excitement and the freshness and all we’re left with is a sometimes funny but largely bland and derivative sequel.