After the Wolf Pack came out of nowhere in the summer of '09 and turned into the stars of the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in history, it was only a matter of time before they returned for another round of bender-induced craziness. The hype has been palpable, the wait long, but now that they're back, does 'The Hangover Part II' live up to expectations?
Well, grab your beeper and hit the jump to find out.
What's It About?
This is the story of four best friends named Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug. Two years ago they threw a bachelor party for Doug in Vegas that started with them all getting accidentally roofied and ended with them barely getting Doug to his wedding despite being so bombed that they had no recollection of what happened the night before.
This time around, Stu is getting married to his fiancee in scenic Thailand and has invited Phil, Alan and Doug to tag along even though he's made it perfectly clear that he doesn't want a repeat of Vegas. Two nights before the wedding, they all decide to have a drink on the beach with Stu's 16-year-old future brother-in-law to celebrate, but one thing leads to another and the next morning they wake up in a Bangkok hotel with no recollection of what happened the night before. They realize that Stu's future brother-in-law is nowhere to be found, they panic, and then they start retracing their steps around Bangkok to figure out what the Hell happened and where the Hell this kid is before Stu's wedding day rolls around.
How Is it Different From 'The Hangover'?
In a nutshell, it's not.
Instead of being in Las Vegas, this time it's in Bangkok; instead of a missing tooth, this time Ed Helms has Mike Tyson's face tattoo; instead of a stray baby, this time it's a chain-smoking monkey; and instead of trying to find Justin Bartha, this time they're trying to find Ed Helms' future brother-in-law. But other than that, yeah, this is the exact same plot as the first movie, only with more Ken Jeong.
Shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've seen the trailer and it's probably not gonna keep anyone who loved 'The Hangover' from buying a ticket. But still, there's something about that constant feeling of déjà vu that'll just make you compare every square inch of the two movies no matter how many times the characters repeat to each other that "I can't believe this is happening again!" And as much as that self-awareness keeps the eye-rolling to a minimum, it's pretty freakin' astounding how similar the two movies are.
Now, I think I'm in the minority on this one, but I didn't think 'The Hangover' was the be-all, end-all comedy that everyone cracked it up to be. Don't get me wrong, it's funny stuff, it's a great premise and I've seen it two or three times to boot, but it wasn't even the funniest movie of 2009 let alone the past decade. I know, the figures don't lie and 'The Hangover' definitely wins in that department, but after all, 2009 was the year of 'Black Dynamite' and 'Zombieland.'
What's Your Point?
My point is, as much as I can't knock the writers for trying to capitalize on a proven success by rehashing everything that already worked, it only works to a degree. That's because it's never cool to walk into a sequel and walk out feeling like you just watched the first movie with a different name, and the simple solution to that problem is just to go for something different. I mean, after reading about how Zach Galifianakis banned his mom from seeing this, I was at least prepping myself for an exercise in the extreme, but despite all the crazy crap that actually does go on in Thailand like Russian roulette and child trafficking, the most we get is a five minute scene with trannies. Now, I've never met Mrs. Galifianakis, so I can't say anything for certain, but I think she could have handled that.
If anything, the real difference is that the tone here is way more dire than I was expecting. What took the edge off in the first movie was that, as serious as the situation was, each new situation these guys got into was crazier and more fun than the last. But now there's a handful of long stretches where the guys are making their way from one lead to the next with no laughs whatsoever and no fun to be had, and the situation feels as serious as it actually is. It's still fun for the most part, but it's quite the buzzkill during those said stretches.
Also not a fan of using a monkey and facial tattoo to fuel one gag after another. Just cheap gimmicks from the get-go that felt like they were written by a monkey with a facial tattoo.
All Right, So the Script Is Lacking. But What About the Wolf Pack?
They're a saving grace and watching them play off each other is the most fun this thing has going for it.
Since Justin Bartha didn't do much but get hitched with a mean sunburn in the first movie, it was a good call to put him on the backburner even if newcomer Mason Lee is just as forgettable as the future brother-in-law. Zach Galifianakis is strange as ever as Alan and the laughs only start coming when he finally shows up and orders his mom to come clean up his lunch over an intercom. Coming off the heels of his hilarious performance in 'Cedar Rapids', Ed Helms is back and he absolutely kills as Stu. Bradley Cooper's also noticeably funnier this time around as Phil.
Oh, and Ken Jeong's here again as eccentric world criminal, Chow, but since I can't understand why everyone else in the world thinks Ken Jeong is so damn funny, I could have done without that. Nor was I a huge fan of the A-lister that was brought on board to replace Mel Gibson. Not a bad casting choice by any means and it's not his fault, he's just given zero opportunity to do anything with the role.
But Is It Worth Seeing?
Despite the lengthy lulls between laughs and the fact that this is more or less a carbon copy of 'The Hangover', it's still got its moments. Then again, even if this movie had flat-out sucked to high heavens, I don't really think there's anything I could say here that would actually deter folks from seeing this. It's Memorial Day weekend, it's gonna make a crap-ton of money, and, lucky for us, it is good for some laughs. Not the most original comedy I've ever seen, nowhere near as quotable as I'd hoped, and you might be better off just watching the first one again, but it's ultimately worth the trip unless you've got a serious problem with the occasional dudeity.
Damn, is this gonna get old by 'Part III.'
VERDICT: 6/10 Bangkok Blackouts