Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Hangover Part II

Beat The Bangkok Slowly, To A Sure And Steady Death


Bradley Cooper (left) as Phil, Zach Galifianakis (background) as Alan and Ed Helms (foreground) as Stu in "The Hangover Part II", directed by Todd Phillips. 
Warner Brothers

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

They're back, in another fine mess they've got themselves into.  This time the wacky trio of Phil, Alan and Stu are in Bangkok, Thailand to attend Stu's wedding.  He's marrying a beautiful woman with Thai roots, but before that happens they will again forget what happened the night before the morning after, in "The Hangover Part II", Todd Phillips' boisterous, violent and only sporadically funny comedy sequel, which opens tonight at midnight in theaters across the U.S. and Canada.

The new film falls desperately short of the freshness and impromptu zeal of Mr. Phillips' "The Hangover" (2009).  The secret sauce of success for the wildly hilarious original was its unselfconscious and brazen attitude, with incorrectness and cameos that were right on the mark.  The hijinks went over the edge and the writers knew when to cry uncle.  That is not the case here, as scenes that are supposed to be funny are instead long and overbaked.

Alas, "Part II" falls into the trap so many sophomore-jinxed sequels do, by piling on more of the same but going for the jugular with mean-spirited, excessive jabs, in this case at the city of Bangkok.  Over and over again we hear at-best lukewarm punch lines about the Thai city.  The lead trio relentlessly shout, fight and demean the people and country they visit.  Even a Curtis Mayfield-themed pusher-monkey can't save the film.  Ultimately Mr. Phillips' sequel is a let-down, lazily engineering laughs on the cheap.  The script was apparently worked on (or rushed) soon after the first film was released.  It needed a more thorough work over and new ideas.

After its relatively funny first half-hour "The Hangover Part II" becomes an unfunny, knock-down drag-out exercise in endurance and humiliation.  Most of the camaraderie that the "three best friends that anybody could have" devolves into sniping and screaming at each other in a blinding, madcap frenzy.  The guys had fun together in Las Vegas but despise each other's company here.  This miserable hapless bunch doesn't deserve to be in Thailand. 

Only Justin Bartha, as Doug, the missing member of what was a "wolfpack" quartet in the first film, appears to be having fun.  Doug is safely ensconced in a Thai hotel resort with his wife, away from the trouble that ensues.  He's a wise man.

The new story is significantly weaker than its predecessor, trying things on a bigger, grander scale -- a scale that only highlights the gaping holes in the shallow material.  "The Hangover Part II" tries to plug those holes with racial insults, some of which are supplied by Ken Jeong's over-amped Mr. Chow.  Mr. Jeong's deliberation was one of the highlights of "The Hangover".  He was given time to flaunt Mr. Chow and let him make a mark on the film.  "The Hangover Part II" doesn't give him a chance to breathe.  Mr. Jeong's character is rushed, frantic and over the top, the actor-doctor's talents exhausted and wasted. 

The cameos by Paul Giamatti and the returning Mike Tyson are stale.  Both cameos feel tired.  There are large amounts of this film that aren't funny, and the audience assembled to see this sequel stayed mute for large stretches of it.  Unlike the original film, the end credit photo stream here contains very few if any laughs.  Mr. Phillips' sequel reverses its mega-successful original, becoming an action film with comedy in it.

The comic timing that made the first film so flighty and enjoyable is sorely missed.  "Hangover" writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are absent, replaced here by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Mr. Phillips, who also directed last year's poor "Due Date".  They waste a great opportunity to use Thailand to their advantage but contempt, not comedy appears to fuel "The Hangover Part II". 

Watching "The Hangover Part II", a joyless experience most of the way, is akin to watching someone undergo a root canal.  It's painful.  A train wreck.  I wondered, what is going on and why?  Why such violence?  You have to ask yourself: why is it that these men only go haywire and lose themselves whenever one of them is about to get married?  You need not have seen the first film to know that the new one runs off the rails as an utter mess, although many of the in-jokes from the first film comprise the bulk of the humor of "The Hangover Part II".

Granted, Mr. Phillips knows how to present lavish visions and a sense of space and setting with nicely-lensed establishing shots, but the intimacy and humor so integral to "The Hangover" fails to light up the expanded landscape.  After the man-made city of Las Vegas, the closer these men get to quasi-nature (ala Thailand) the crazier they become.  Chalk up "The Hangover Part II" as a huge disappointment, a film hung over and caught on a hangnail. 

With: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Chung, Mason Lee, Jeffrey Tambor, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Sondra Currie, Yasmin Lee, Aroon Seeboonruang, Bryan Callen, Nirut Sirichanya, Nick Cassavetes.

"The Hangover Part II" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images.  The film's running time is one hour and 42 minutes.  The film opens across the U.S. and Canada tonight at midnight.

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