The Hangover Part Two -- Review
A few days ago Hammer Wife and I took a brief sabbatical from the kidlets to head out for a nice, suburban restaurant chain dinner, followed by a rare date night trip to the movies. Yes -- actually in the theater! I know! It really happened, and basically it was Hammer Wife's desire to see the sequel to The Hangover, which just recently came out, that led to us being there. We headed into town and sat down to a maybe 75%-filled theater to watch Bradley Cooper, Andy Bernard, Zack Galifinakis, and that other guy who got left on the roof let it loose for another round in The Hangover Part Two.
I'll be honest -- my expectations for this movie going in were pretty low, for several reasons. I had never even heard they were doing a Hangover sequel until suddenly seeing the commercial during some big sporting event or something like a month ago, and frankly, that started me off right away with the idea that this thing was kind of hastily thrown together, in a desperate attempt to nab some extra sales while the original movie is still somewhat fresh in the vernacular of pop culture (it certainly still is). I pretty much still think that's exactly what happened, for that matter. But it didn't give me much in the way of optimism for the movie going in. On top of that, I feared going in that this movie was going to suffer from the same problem that certain other movie sequels suffer from -- Speed and Home Alone most immediately come to mind -- just how the fike are they going to explain these four guys managing to get together, get fucked up and have another night of hijinks again, when they just did it and had that ridiculous night just last year? How can they even explain Zack Galifinakis ever getting together with those other three friends again? He was just the weirdo brother of the bride in the first movie, and was a total freak at that, but why on earth would those guys ever do something like this with him again, especially after Zack drugged them the last time -- intentionally -- to lead to all the problems in the first place? How stupid is this going to be?
Without giving too much away, let me just say this: the people in charge of The Hangover Part Two opted to kind of face these questions head on, and in doing so they decided to make basically the exact same movie as the first one all over again. In other words, they basically went the Home Alone route here -- the first movie was such a success for what it was, that when it came time to do a sequel, they overtly just reproduced basically the same movie, with the same basic plot, all over again, only in the case of Home Alone II, it was just with different supporting characters and in a different setting. Whereas the first movie was McCauley Culkin defending his home while left alone in suburban Chicago, Home Alone II was again Culkin, but this time miraculously left again, this time in the middle of New York City. In the first Home Alone, it was the scary old man who Culkin first avoided like the plague, then had a chance meeting with and ended up liking perfectly well, and who at the end came through in a pinch to save Culkin's life after Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern had once again finally just gotten their hands on him. In the second movie, it was the scary bird lady in the park who played essentially that exact same role in the story. It was basically the same movie in a new setting -- the uncle's nyc apartment under renovation vs. the family's home in Illinois -- replete with the paint cans, nails in the floor and all the other crazy booby traps that no real 10 year old could or would ever do.
The Hangover Part Two was basically the same thing, only in this movie's case, they kept most of the same characters, and simply changed the setting. This time instead of Las Vegas, it was Bangkok. They took five minutes to set up how Galifnakis ended up with the "Wolfpack" again -- a pretty lame excuse but they pulled it off ok if you're willing to suspend reality and just enjoy the movie, and then the gang was off to Thailand. But otherwise, without trying to give away too much here, let's just say that they go to have one drink, it turns out someone drugs them again, and they wake up the next morning with no idea where they are, how they got there, or what the F is going on. And, naturally, a key member of their gang has gone missing, and they must find him right away to avoid totally ruining yet another wedding that is happening just one day later in Thailand. What ensues is a number of scenes in tattoo parlors, strip clubs, bars and the crazy nightlife that only Bangkok is known for as the gang attempts to find their lost friend and make it back in time to fix the wedding. Andy Bernard gets with another prostitute who he falls in love with (kind of), there's another scene where they unlock Mr. Chow from a trunk-like thing and he jumps out and kicks the crap out of them, and instead of a tiger in this movie there's a very humanesque monkey coming along on the group's travels. And so on and so on. And the parallels even run down to the nitty gritty -- the guys get attacked out of nowhere by a gang of thugs and it turns out they've gotten themselves mixed up in another of Mr. Chow's shenanigans gone wrong, just like in the first movie. They then spend a half an hour finding a miraculous way to actually get out of that horrible situation, just like when they win Mr. Chow's 80 grand back in the first movie. And just when they believe they've got their friend back, they realize -- just like out in the desert with Chow in the first movie -- that they don't have him at all, and they aren't any closer to finding their friend, and it's basically too late to fix it. So just like in the first movie, Bradley Cooper makes the call, and just while Cooper is spilling the bad news that they aren't going to make the wedding, Andy Bernard has another stroke of insight, a rush of memories from the night before, and he knocks Cooper over before he can finish the call and proclaims that they'll make it home in time but perhaps a little late for the ceremony. They all remember, their friend was left somewhere they should have known all along, and they make it back just in time in crazy fashion but in time to save the wedding. Andy Bernard even tells off someone who had been being an asshole to him for a long time at the actual wedding. Again, just like that great scene with his girlfriend at the end of the first Hangover flick. The movie even ends with the missing guy finding his phone with photos of the entire night no one can remember and showing those pics along with the final credits!
Now, all this talk about the total parallels between the two Hangover movies is not to say that I hated it. Not at all. For a movie that basically copied the first one with some changes to the setting and the details, if you can get over that hump and spending $12 or whatever it costs where you live to see a movie these days for what is basically a retread of the first movie, The Hangover Part Two was actually quite enjoyable. There isn't a dull moment, it's impossible to fall asleep at, and there are a lot of funny scenes, and just like the first movie, a few really shocking ones as well, in a funny way. It's the characters that we've grown to love from the first movie, and those guys -- Cooper, Bernard and Galifinakis specifically -- really do their respective shticks well from start to finish in this movie. It is well written dialogue, and it had several moments where the entire theater was laughing out loud, groaning or something similar to indicate our engagement with the film and the characters. And, let's face it -- the cadence and overall plot of the first movie, which this one intentionally and overtly mimics more or less exactly, pretty much works well. We like seeing movies about guys waking up completely fucked up and piecing together the craziness that went down the night before. If done well, it's a tried and true proven winning concept (see Dude Where's My Car, which is highlarious as I've written about before here in the not too distant past).
In the end, I'm glad that the producers opted to make The Hangover Part Two's mimicry of the first movie to overt and obvious. They face the issue of how this sequel could ever actually happen head-on, and just ask the audience to suspend a little bit, relax and enjoy the next couple hours of their lives. If seeing essentially the overtly same movie as the first Hangover film over again in a different place with different details is going to bother you -- and I could certainly see how it could, I personally was a bit disappointed about the lack or originality myself with a plot line as rich in possibilities as almost any other comedy out there -- but if you can get over that and are the type to just suspend reality and enjoy the show, then you'll probably like this movie. Galifinakis is pretty much brilliant in this weirdo character he has created to perfectly suit himself, and Andy Bernard and Bradley Cooper are to my mind both quite watchable in mostly everything they do. And make no mistake, this movie is funny -- you'll laugh out loud for sure throughout. And by the end of the sequel I'm sure you will agree that these characters are as likable as ever.
I think if there's a third one, however, they're going to need to go with a different plot. Hopefully they can at least make it better than the third try at Home Alone.
Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10. Would have been in the 7s if the plot were just more original.