The Wolfpack is back! Stu, Phil and Alan have returned for more drunken debauchery and this time the boys are taking on Bangkok. The Hangover Part II hits theatres this week and after a two year wait, fans are finally able to follow the gang back into familiar territory. The premise is the same, as are the players, but what’s different are the stakes. Vegas is one thing, but Bangkok, well it’s a whole different beast.
The Hangover Part II is a tough one to review. I saw the film almost a month before it hit theatres and I’ve had a long time to think about what I wanted to say about it. The film had all the pieces it needed to be an excellent summer comedy and anticipation for it was high. After all, why wouldn’t it be? The first one was one of the highest grossing R rated films of all time, taking in close to $500 million. So, how does this one compare? Let’s take a look.
As the film begins, the boys are sitting together on a rooftop in Bangkok, lost and at the end of the line. We can tell they’ve been through some serious shit and they’ve run out of hope. Not knowing where else to turn, Phil (Bradley Cooper) calls Dough’s wife Tracy and tells her “it happened again”. She’s not pleased and asks him how bad it is, he tells her that they might as well call off the wedding. As we wonder what kind of crazy shit they’ve gotten into this time, director Todd Phillips takes us back to one week earlier.
Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married. The wedding is in Thailand, where his bride Lauren (Jaime Chung), and her family are from. Stu wants to keep things simple and safe, which is understandable considering what happened to him in Vegas. He makes this clear when he tells Phil and Doug “I’m still putting the broken pieces of my psyche back together.”
One night after dinner, Phil convinces Stu to join him, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Lauren’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee) on the beach, for a beer. Just one beer Phil promises, he even makes sure all the beers are sealed, so there is no way anyone can roofie them. As the boys crack open their beer, they make a toast and as we all know what’s coming, Kanye West‘s Monster takes over the soundtrack while Phillips cuts away from the boys and to the city of Thailand.
In a sequence identical to the first film, we see a time lapse of the city and then a fade to black. Morning comes and as we see our Wolfpack, they awake in a dirty motel room after a seemingly wild night. And like in the first film, we come to Bradley Cooper‘s face first. He’s on the floor (same position as in the first film) and as he wakes up he realizes, it’s happened again.
Even worse is the fact that they’ve woken up in Bangkok, which is not where they started the night. They’re in a motel room that they don’t remember checking into but as they come to, they realize that ending up in Bangkok isn’t even the start of their problems. They’ve also lost Teddy.
If you haven’t already clued in, Phillips uses a similar premise here. Actually, make that an identical premise. But that’s forgivable. It’s a sequel and honestly, how many different directions can you take with the premise? What’s not forgivable is that Phillips applies this mentality to the entire film. Not only is the premise identical, but the entire film is identical to the first one. It mirrors the first film in every imaginable way.
We get the same premise, the whole following the clues deal, the same type of realizations, similar hi-jinxes, the conflict is solved in an identical fashion, the movie ends off the same etc. It gets so bad sometimes that it not only borders on annoying/frustrating but it becomes almost like self-parody and makes you wonder if they did this on purpose. It also provides for a lot of predictability, there are no surprises anymore.
For fear of spoiling things I don’t want to delve too deep into the issue but honestly, I could fill 3 or 4 pages with all the similarities. It is so similar to the first film that it takes away from the entertainment value. Literally, everything here is copied right from the first film. In fact, even some shots are exactly identical to the first movie.
I’m fine with an identical premise, and I was even fine with the many references that the boys make in regards to events in the first film. That is expected and acceptable. But honestly, the amount of similarity here is not acceptable. It makes the film utterly predictable and annoying, causing you to roll your eyes as yet another scene plays out exactly as you predicted. Luckily though, that’s really the only downside to the film.
Reprising their roles as the Wolfpack, everyone turns in great performances. If you’ve seen the first film, you should know what to expect here. Bradley Cooper returns as Phil, the cool, charismatic leader of the group. He’s a smart aleck who thinks he has all the answers and is constantly trying to take charge. Cooper brings a suave and confident attitude to the character which makes for an almost cocksure alpha male. He’s instantly watchable as he brings an impeccable sense of comedic timing to the role
Ed Helms, who has really had a chance to shine in NBC’s The Office over the past few years, returns at Stu. The more reserved and play it safe one in the group, Stu is still the voice of reason and the one with the most to lose. He still whines and ends up in the worst situations but he’s damn funny to watch. His freakouts are highlights and watching him lose his cool is undeniably funny.
And of course, Zach Galifianakis returns as Alan, a seemingly innocent yet secretly reckless individual who asks stupid questions and performs stupider actions. He’s the weird one of the bunch but it’s a role he seems born to play, and one he keeps showing up in (he plays a similar character in Due Date). Alan is a socially awkward character and Galifiankis nails the role, usually offering up the most laughs. He’s unpredictable and always manages to put a smile on our face, often stealing every scene.
Together Galifianakis, Cooper and Helms (not so much Bartha since he isn’t in the film much), produce a fantastic chemistry which carries over from the first film. They’re perfectly matched and all come off as both convincing and likeable. The interplay and banter between the three is excellent and they make for a wildly entertaining trio.
Supporting roles are also strong. Ken Jeong is back with his overly exaggerated performance of Leslie Chow, one of the highlights of the film and incredibly fun to watch. He has a much bigger role this time around and he’s equally as funny as he was in the first.
Paul Giamatti is also here as Kingsley, a shadowy businessman who the boys cross paths with. Eccentric and over the top, Giamatti offers a very fun performance, clearly enjoying every minute of it as he yells at and belittles the boys to no end.
Lastly there’s Jaime Chung who plays Stu’s wife Lauren and Justin Bartha, who plays Doug. Both are underdeveloped and almost pointless roles. Chung is nothing more than a pretty face and Bartha is once again left out of the hi-jinxes. Of course, there’s also a few cameos here but I’d rather not spoil them.
One thing that should be noted is that as expected, Phillips delivers another awesome soundtrack. We posted the soundtrack listing a while back but it appears that they left some songs off. In addition to what we see on the listing, we also get tracks like Kanye West‘s Monster and The Black Eyed Peas‘ Imma Bee, among others. Phillips uses his music appropriately, coming in at all the right times and definitely adding to the movie.
As a standalone film, The Hangover Part II would be brilliant, like the first film was. They’ve pushed the envelope a bit further this time so the stakes are higher and Bangkok is definitely wilder than Vegas was. The ante has also been upped since they’re now in a city known for having a dark side and the film is far more outrageous and edgy than the first.
There are some truly dark comedic moments here that are pretty crazy. If it just wasn’t so darn similar, recycled and predictable it would be a fantastic comedy. A lot of the jokes are just variations on memorable moments from the first film and the script overall just feels very lazy.
While speaking with Bradley Cooper, he told me that if you forget that the first film already used that premise, then the second one is really a better movie. He was actually quite pleased that they stuck to the same formula because he didn’t feel like the characters were ready to move on.
“As a fan of the first one, I don’t think that we’ve earned the ability to take these three guys out of it yet, says Cooper. I don’t think we know them well enough to have a movie that just has to do about their family life or something. I want to see them forget the night before, I want to see Phil call Tracy and say ‘we fucked up again’. I want it to be darker and I want the stakes to be raised. And you know what, let’s beat Vegas.
I saw the film two weeks ago and I think it’s a lot better than the first one. I really do. It’s a better movie. Now it’s not as new as the first one. The first one established the structure but if you separate yourself from that and just look at the film as a whole, you can’t even argue that it’s not as good as the first one. Because really, it’s better.”
And in a way, I agreed with him. Sticking to the same formula/structure is fine. But the amount of similarity here is unnecessary. And like he said, if you look at the film as a whole, it is better. It’s true, you can’t argue that. But because it is a sequel, it’s hard to look at it without factoring in the first film. Did I enjoy the film? Yes, for the most part. Did the similarities and derivative nature hurt it? Absolutely. Don’t expect anything original or surprising, but you can still count on an entertaining and often funny film, despite the fact that it mirrors the first one.