The Hangover II
directed by Todd Phillips
written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips
starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung,
Hangover redux can pretty much be summed up by a calamity that comes straight at the end during the wedding party. Suddenly the band kicks in to a dilapidated version of Murray Head’s “One Night in Bancock” sung or rather not sung by none other than Mike Tyson one of more memorable characters from the first film. The rendition is as bad as anything one could possibly imagine appearing in a film and it reminds one of everything that missed the mark here. For starters the laughs are few and far between and the narrative feels phoned in as if nobody actually took the idea of telling a compelling story. Indeed, the idea held dear by the film makers and their backers seems to be to simply rest on the good will of the first film and hope for the best. It doesn’t matter that the story is essentially the same with a different locale because that is precisely what audiences respond to most favorably. That aspect of the film works quite well but it is one of the only consistently appealing aspect of this film.
Again our trusty wolf pack finds themselves picking up the pieces after another night they cannot remember and must put back together. Again, we learn that the exceedingly dull, chunky one named Alan (Galifianakis) has done something highly stupid that leads to the night of mayhem and strange and delicate delights. In the first film Alan was endearing for his incapacity and naivety but here he is fundamentally a simple pathetic fool who gets in the way and should have never been invited to the wedding. He’s so weak and witless here and whatever appeal he once had is sorely lost. Ed Helms brings us Stu, an upstanding dentist with a life and a wife and a seemingly secure existence free of drama. He’s the fearful one, hesitant at all turns, and desperate to return to the safety of his big, sloppy Asian wedding with his soon-to-be stepfather who hates him passionately because he too is weak. The stud of the crew is Phil who as played by Bradley Cooper is supposed to be the one who knows how to party hard and survive for another round. Here he’s just a bore with nothing whatsoever to add to the narrative which quickly dissolves into the requisite cock jokes which seems to be the only way such films can demonstrate their raunch quotient. Here the penis is fondled, licked, sucked and essentially used and abused in a variety of ways to make up for the otherwise paucity of jokes. There’s even a tranny who gives Stu a beautiful ride he is too embarrassed to admit he liked a whole lot.
Stu’s new appreciation for being buggered aside nothing much happens until the only intriguing character appears. Again, we get Ken Jeong’s deliriously absurd Mr. Chow and Jeong delivers the goods. It’s as if the rest of the film stops when he’s on screen and he gives us a mad hint of what might have been if as much spirit and energy as went into Mr. Chow was applied to the rest of the film. Plus Jeong showcases his fine voice in a quite lovely group singing of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”. It’s again evidence of what Ken Jeong brings to his work and why he should be the focus of the next inevitable installment in the franchise. The rest are definitely likable actors and have all done fine work but here there is truly no reason for any of these characters to exist and the best thing for the franchise would to kill one of them off in each of the forthcoming three films in the series or kill them all at once. I for one do not care about their various distresses and have no interest in the wacky antics that ensue on that fateful night where everything goes completely haywire.
The other great performance is turned in by Nick Cassavetes who plays a tattoo artist with a wonderfully quiet ferocity that also seems to exist in a different realm from the film. The film becomes much more tolerable when Cassavetes in on screen but unfortunately his role is too brief and we must return to the louses who make up the key component of the film.
The story takes place in Thailand because Stu is once again getting married and her family has a massive and palatial home where the wedding is to take place. Stu wants calm and ease and for history to not repeat itself. The pack have invited Teddy, the sixteen year old pre-med violin prodigy who is the bride’s brother. He is also doted over by his father who has huge plans for the boy. We get that he is sheltered and know immediately that he is going to have an awakening of sorts by going wild and behaving badly. He is taken in by the others and during the lost evening is misplaced. They spend the rest of the film looking for him which ends pretty much exactly as the first film did to nobody's surprise.
Overall, this film definitely gives the slobbering masses just what they deserve which is a stale attempt to recapture the magic that made the first one a massive international success. It seems to be yet another example of the creators and executives colluding to create a film with the widest appeal without caring to worry over something so trivial as the story or characters. It’s not a terrible film on all levels and works when certain actors are featured but in the end it’s a total disappointment because one knows it could have legitimately laugh-out-loud funny like the early “Bridesmaids” managed to do with a similar dedication to articulating myriad sex jokes which work because there is a story present and the characters are worth investing in. Here there is a vacuum and no desire to make us care what happens to any of these mediocre people save Mr. Chow who is always welcome.