In the Summer of 2009, American moviegoers fell in love with a motley crew of white dudes who they came to know as “The Wolfpack”. Director Todd Phillips’ The Hangover was released on June 5th and before Summer 2009 had come to a close the film had become a cultural phenomenom, becoming the highest grossing R-rated comedy in US history. The film’s success with pre-release test audiences led Warner Brothers executives to green-light a sequel before The Hangover ever hit theaters. It’s been almost two years since “The Wolfpack” stole our hearts and they’re back in The Hangover: Part II. Have the years of absence made our hearts grow fonder or are we now able to resist their charms?
I loved The Hangover. I saw it multiple times in theaters, including opening night. I even dressed as Alan for Halloween that October. Although I loved the movie, I had my doubts about a sequel. The teaser trailer for The Hangover: Part II did very little to get me excited about watching another "Wolfpack" outing. After seeing a full length trailer for the sequel I decided it looked funny enough to check out, so I patiently waited until today, May 26, 2011, to join Alan, Doug, Phil and Stu as they suffer through misadventures in Thailand.
I was skeptical about a sequel because I truly felt like they got everything pretty much perfect in the first movie and there really wasn’t anywhere to go but down. I also wasn’t sure of a reasonable premise they could use, but The Hangover: Part II reunites the group of friends as they prepare to attend Stu’s wedding...in Thailand. I guess the only place where things could get crazier than they did in Vegas was Bangkok. There’s not much that can be said about the film’s story that doesn’t involve giving away some of the best laughs, so I’m not going to rehash the plot here. It’s a comedy so all we really need is a basic premise and hilarity will ensue, right? Not exactly.
Comedies are a tough genre to review, mainly because everyone has a different sense of humor, so please keep that in mind when reading this review. Where can I begin? I have two major gripes about The Hangover: Part II: 1) It’s more or less the same movie as the first with a few tweaks. It’s almost as if they said, “To hell with writing a new movie, the first movie was wonderful, let’s just change the setting and some of the events and voila! The Hangover: Part II” 2) There were very few hearty laughs...I really only caught myself smiling or chuckling slightly throughout the movie. When I see a comedy, I want to be laughing hysterically.
Well Stephen, you said you laughed, that’s the point, right? Indeed I did laugh, but I didn’t laugh nearly as hard or often as I did with the first movie. Some might say I had unrealistic expectations, but in general the same can be said about my fellow moviegoers, no one was laughing hysterically. My biggest laugh came from their visit to a strip club in Bangkok. I won’t give away what happens, but as you can imagine, putting “The Wolfpack” in a strip club can only lend itself to hilarity.
Another complaint I have is the treatment of Alan. In the first movie Zach Galifianakis stole the show as the eccentric Alan. As big of an idiot he was, you loved him because he was genuine and just couldn’t seem to get right. In The Hangover: Part II Alan borders on being mentally challenged in some scenes. I’m not kidding. They’ve basically taken the loveable character and ratcheted his stupidity up a few notches to where he has become a caricature of the Alan we met in the first movie. I think Galifianakis is amazingly talented, but he needs to avoid being typecast into the role of offbeat weirdo. I think he’s a better actor than that. He’s bordering on Michael Cera territory where he’s basically the same character in every movie, just with a few minor tweaks. Alan is very similar to Ethan Tremblay from Due Date as well as The Hermit from Operation: Endgame.
Overall, I’m torn as to whether or not I recommend that you see The Hangover: Part II in theaters. Here’s what will help you decide whether or not it’s worth your investment. Watch the trailers. If you think they’re really funny and would love to see those scenes again in their entirety, go ahead and pay for your ticket. With the exception of the strip club, every decent laugh in the movie can be seen in the trailers. It’s that simple.
I had fairly low expectations for The Hangover: Part II. I’ve made the joke that they’re going to make The Hangover Part III: The Guys Stumble Upon & Abuse a Dead Horse Next to a Dry Well. The Hangover: Part II shows that they’ve basically picked all of the ripe fruit off the comedic tree for this franchise and hopefully they won’t try to sucker more money out of people after this one. Bottom line: I think they really captured “lightning in a bottle” with The Hangover. The sequel shows the inherit problems with revisiting a film like that a few years later. The chemistry is slightly off between actors and they seem to be searching to recapture the essence of the characters they played in the first film. Something about the whole movie just seems "off". It’s good for a few laughs, but if you’re looking for laughs of the same proportion of the original movie, I’m fairly certain you’ll be disappointed. Some of you might just find yourselves wishing someone would “roofie” you so you could forget the shame of knowing you paid full price to see The Hangover: Part II.
Verdict: It’s good for a few chuckles, but overall, it’s nowhere near as wonderful as the original. If you are dying to see it I suggest attending a matinee. That way you won’t feel quite as embarassed about filling the pockets of the movie executives who will be laughing at you on their way to the bank. If you are on the fence, I’d just suggest you wait for the film to release on home video. It’s not going to be as discussed at the water cooler as The Hangover so you won't be missing out.
Acting: Really disappointed in the handling of Alan. He is much dumber than he was in the first movie. It reminds me of how Cousin Eddie was portrayed in Christmas Vacation 2. I couldn’t watch past the first 15-20 minutes because they more or less made Eddie mentally challenged instead of just a loveable fool (which isn't funny). They’re awfully close to doing that with Alan in this movie.
Parenting: I know I promised not to stand on a soapbox on my blog, but I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the fact that a few parents brought their kids to see the movie. Not teenagers, but 11-12 year olds...maybe younger. Should be a fun drive home explaining the strip club sequence to the kids. If you can’t hire a babysitter, be responsible and wait to see the movie later. You’re a parent now, your kids come before yourself.