Wednesday, 14 December 2011
The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helm, Zach Galifinakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
By Alan Bacchus
Not only is this film ‘not that bad’, it’s actually a very funny and worthy successor to the original. Of course, I’m coming at this months after its near unanimous vilification by critics, yet it was a resounding box office success with audiences. So what gives?
What seems to be cited most often in the negative reviews is the template-like methodology this sequel places itself into. Beat-for-beat, The Hangover Part II repeats the formula of the first film, like déjà vu or perhaps a Groundhog Day time loop. Is it as fresh as the original? No. But while some saw this as shamelessly uncreative, I found this approach strangely appropriate, providing a level of comedy befitting the original film. Let’s remember, The Hangover was funny, but no masterpiece, certainly not sacred material, and thus ripe for the kind of repetitive comedy used in other movie franchises, such as James Bond, Austin Powers, Back to the Future and a half-century of situation comedies on television.
And to qualify the television reference, this film is by no means small screen material. There is some awesome cinematic comedy on display, appropriately pushing the boundaries of good taste and decency for comedic purposes. And it always stays on the right side of comedy.
The fact is, the ‘wolf pack’ in this picture – Phil, Stu and Alan, all losers incapable of holding their liquor and drugs and susceptible to the vices and temptations of man – are delightfully lovable. In the first film this trio made for a fun lampooning of the thin line between the feint veil of social maturity and the primal nature of our male desires. And here, the fact that the same thing happens to these guys again is a sad reminder or the failings of man.
Moving the situation over to Thailand appropriately ups the stakes. The exotic foreign location and xenophobic cross-culture fears of middle Americans adds a level of unpredictability that’s not present in the relative safety of Las Vegas. There's also ample room to exploit some fun ethnic stereotypes – all very lightly and fairly. Bringing back Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) as the fey Asian coke addict who finds himself embroiled in the wolf pack's journey is key to this.
The missing person in this film turns out to be Teddy, Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law and his father-in-law's prized possession – a genius teenager destined to fulfil his father's dreams. And so, after they wake up from their substance-influenced amnesia night of hell with Teddy gone missing, Stu's life comes crashing down.
The monkey featured in the poster makes for some good ol’ 'simian' humour involving mimicking human behaviour, which historically always makes for good comedy. Phillips even engineers a truly fantastic car chase in the mix, racing a motorcycle through the streets of Bangkok.
Not all of the gags score, specifically Mike Tyson's appearance in the end and Paul Giamatti's casting as an American gangster. But the authentic locations and the genuine warmth and chemistry of the three actors make this picture highly watchable and undeserving of such critical lambasting. So just chill out and enjoy The Hangover Part II.
The Hangover Part II is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Entertainment.