Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Giamatti, Jamie Chung, Nick Cassavettes
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer(s): Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Original Score: Christophe Beck
Running Time: 102 Mins.
It’s very rare for a sequel to outdo its original, Toy Story 2, Aliens and most prolifically The Godfather: Part 2 are always touted as bettering their first entries. The latter of which Todd Phillips has acknowledged as a benchmark to measure up to in sequel terms with his comedy surprise smash hit of two summer’s back, The Hangover. Let’s face it there was likely a hint of wry sarcasm in that comment however it doesn’t forgive the director/writer for churning out a film that is less a sequel and more a premature remake, switching the debauched Las Vegas for somewhere even more grimy, Bangkok. Yes this allows for the “bigger is better” mantra that is often applied in the “rules of sequels” handbook but the sheer laziness of plotting does have a tendency to irk.
So, much like last time around (too much so) there is an impending wedding, this time it is Stu’s (Helms) and the guys set about having a quiet bachelor brunch, this then moves to a quiet drink on the beach followed by the blackout and the titular hangover. This, as last time, leaves Stu, Phill (Cooper) and Alan (Galifianakis) traipsing around Bangkok in search of answers and the bride-to-be’s lost brother. Yes some characters are switched fr the purpose of not being a total remake, as are plot elements but having a monkey rather than a Tiger and a an elderly monk rather than a baby won’t fool anyone with half a brain cell. These guys have a formula that worked, wonderfully, and have no intention of veering too far from it. Though this leads me to comedy sequels in general, they aren’t that abundant and as Will Ferrell will testify with Anchorman or Ben Stiller with Zoolander, raising the cash is hard especially if the sequel idea is different from the premise that garnered the originals box office buck. The Hangover: Part 2 was a no-brainer really, the idea of men piecing together a wild night of drunken antics in other locales is ripe for sequel ideas, that plot thrust alone providing opportunity but actual points that leave no surprise are more of an issue.
Thankfully now I have cleared up the lack of ambition in terms of plot I can get to the important bits, the laughs. So where plot hits the same beats so to does the laugh quota (almost), it lacks a couple of that films better set pieces (the casino, the chapel) but makes way for some hilarious (and inevitable) episodes with ladyboys and a monastery, though not at once, that would just be wrong! Alan’s screen time is bumped up more and we learn more about him and despite going through the (plot) motions what a sequel allows time for is to appreciate these very well written comedy characters, the wolf pack is back and make the most of their second adventure to build on friendships in a non-cheesey way but still sincere. Doug in particular gets to be more than two-dimensions of characterisation, and if Phill is still just the sleazy-womanizer he does it well enough that it doesn’t really matter.
Filling out the cast is Mr. Chow, also in an expanded role, providing enough laughs to make his return a welcome one, less so if Justin Bartha, the guy is great at comedy yet he simply sits on the sidelines when his involvement in the nights machinations would have been welcome and added a new dimension and something a little fresher to something that will quickly become stale if yet another identikit film is wrought from the exact same premise. Also Teddy is a forgettable cipher to set the wheels in motion, not really given anything more to do than act out his “prodigal son” role, the much vaunted role of the tattoo artist who was once meant to be Mel Gibson then Liam Neeson is simply there for exposition and Paul Giamatti pops up for a needless subplot that mirrors that of Chow in the original, such a shame given the man’s comedy credentials.
As with the original the film is well shot and photographed for a comedy, grounded in a real world of grime and smut it is lit more like a thriller than a comedy, befitting of the seedy and smutty jokes, talking of which nothing is deemed sacred. As expected the comedy depths are mined, in the best possible way of course, these men have no taste (again in the best possible way) meaning that the aforementioned ladyboys turn up for the biggest laughs, the monkey smokes and that’s just the start of it! So overall The Hangover: Part 2 does as a comedy should, a good one at that, gives us characters we love and a constant flow of jokes, some of which are chuckles with other (and more often) full-blown belly laughs…really could have done without Mike Tyson and his very much unfunny ballad!
The Hangover: Part 2 is more remake than sequel, sticking excruciatingly close to its forebear. Thank god then that it is very nearly just as funny, even without the surprise and originality of the first, some testament to how well written The Wolfpack are.