Todd Phillips struck lightning in a bottle with his top grossing R rated comedy, THE HANGOVER. Phillips didn’t have the same critical and financial success with DUE DATE, a film I really enjoyed. So now Phillips has emerged once again with a sequel to his breakout hit and dishes out even more drunken craziness with THE HANGOVER PART II. In the great tradition of sequels the stakes have increased significantly and the debauchery here makes the events of the first film seem like a weekend church retreat. PART II follows the EXACT same structure as the first film, but the events are much darker and at times even funnier than the first, making THE HANGOVER PART II familiar but still a welcome follow-up.
I refuse to believe anyone reading this has not seen THE HANGOVER, so taking up a lot of space breaking down the story might seem redundant. In THE HANGOVER PART II Stu is getting married and is hesitant to risk the same events from Vegas but despite his precautions they manage to wake up in the middle of Bangkok and are missing his wife to be’s little 16 year old brother, Teddy. Stu, Phil and Alan proceed to run around Bangkok in order to find Teddy before the wedding.
It’s worth noting that Stu is not marrying the stripper (Heather Graham) from Vegas. Instead there is a brief reference to the disintegration of that relationship that lead to him meeting his new fiancé, Lauren (Jaime Chung). When things go south this time around there seems to be a significant increase in panic and the sense of urgency even when things get a little ridiculous. Stu is desperate to find Teddy because Lauren is incredibly important to him and Lauren’s father hates Stu but Teddy is the father’s pride and joy. The events of Vegas were outrageous and fun but compared to the danger they face in Bangkok things seem much more hopeless.
THE HANGOVER PART II really does emulate the exact same beginning middle and end of THE HANGOVER. The phone call that opens the film to inform someone that something bad went down. The toast and time-lapse to the morning after, the guys having to return something they stole, the discovery of what happened that caused them to not remember, the light bulb moment where a character finally puts things together, the Ed Helms musical number and the wedding confrontation. There are just minor tweaks to each of them and people will be debating rather this makes PART II lazy or if that’s just part of the humor. Personally, I thought at first the similarities might be annoying, but it was also part of the fun in trying to piece it together right along with the characters. After the success of THE HANGOVER it’s really not that big of a mystery to see why Phillips and the writers would not want to change things up too much, and personally I think they amped up the craziness enough to overlook the structure recycling. I also think it’s way too easy and lazy to write the film off or hate it for it being so similar in style to the first film. If you love the characters and loved the first film, then I don’t see the harm in presenting the characters in a similar situation with all new problems to deal with.
Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are both as funny as they were before and Zack Galifianakis is just as crazy and funny as he was before. It definitely feels like Galifianakis has much more to do this time around as does Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow. I happen to love Jeong as a comedic performer, but I can only take so much of his performance as Mr. Chow. Jeong does have some really funny moments but at times it did kind of feel like too much. It’s always good to see Paul Giamatti even if he is extremely underutilized and Tyson once again makes a musical cameo.
The drunken shenanigans in THE HANGOVER PART II reach a pretty insane height, both in the ridiculous and in how dangerous things get. There is a very large amount of drug use depicted, a drug dealing monkey, silent monks, tranny strippers, riots and more. If the male genitalia makes you uncomfortable you might squirm in your seat here and there. All of these things add up to some very funny gags that all one up the comedy in the first film, but the laughs are not all light hearted as some are very uncomfortable laughs due to how dark things get.
THE HANGOVER PART II might not be as fresh as the first installment, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for with some very funny and dark laughs. The thing is that anyone who has ever drank too much knows that it always seems like you make the same mistakes but with varying consequences and to me that’s where THE HANGOVER PART II succeeds. The more things change the more they stay the same and despite a recycled style the gags and debauchery are cranked up to eleven and the film is often funnier than its predecessor because of it. For the haters, THE HANGOVER PART II is nothing more than that lingering headache that is a painful reminder of what you ingested the night before. From this fan’s perspective though, the new adventures of Phil, Stu and Alan are viciously funny and consistently entertaining.