Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Hangover Part II

Spoiler alert-o-meter: Whatever.

The fun of the first Hangover (HO1) was the insanely simple yet clever device of having three disparate buddies wake the morning after a bachelor party in a sprawling Las Vegas hotel suite with everything gone wrong—the groom is missing while a tiger, strange baby, prostitute are present—and a finite amount of time to figure out what happened and make it right. It was exhilarating to watch this rag-tag triptych of guys conjure clues and follow leads, uncovering secrets about the night before. It was like Memento for Dummies, and it worked wonderfully.

In The Hangover Part II (HO2), the “wolfpack” is back, consisting again of mild-mannered dentist Stu (Ed Helms, from The Office and Cedar Rapids), alpha-jerk Phil (Bradley Cooper, from The A-Team and Limitless), and man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis, from Due Date, Bored to Death, and Dinner for Schmucks) follows an almost identical trajectory. Scratch that: the very same trajectory. But now the stakes are little higher—the self proclaimed wolfpack go international. 

They, along with the wayward groom from HO1 Doug (Justin Bartha), fly to Thailand to a lovely island for Stu’s wedding to a beautiful young woman, Lauren (Jamie Chung). Stu, taking a lesson from two years ago when they lost Doug in Vegas, insists on no bachelor party. Phil talks him into allowing them to have a couple beers around a bonfire on a moonlit beach, bringing along Lauren’s younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee). What could go wrong?

Cut to the next morning. Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up in a seedy hotel room in Bangkok. With a monkey who smokes and wears a leather jacket. Meanwhile, Stu discovers he got a face tattoo to match Mike Tyson’s and Alan’s head has been shorn of his long curly locks (he looks much better without the hair). And so it goes. All the elements that made the first movie inspired, surprising, and yes, funny, turn against HO2. This is not a story anyone needed a part 2 to finish. It’s been finished. But now we get to live it all over again. Groundhog Day for Dummies.

This time though they haven’t lost the groom, but Teddy, the bride’s brother. Not only have they lost him, they find his finger in the room, so there’s the possibility that he's dead. Hilarious! It turns out Doug (missing groom from HO1) left the beach party early and is safely back at the wedding party hotel (why don’t they include Doug more in Part Deux? No reason, except that he wasn’t really a part of the first one). Although we do get Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong ) who was the sort-of bad guy from HO1. Turns out Alan has kept in touch with Mr. Chow for the past two years and invited him to the wedding! With lots of bad guys looking for Mr. Chow--Russian thugs, American thugs (who may have captured Teddy), and of course Thai thugs--what could go wrong?

I was rooting for HO2 for a while. I wanted to laugh, I wanted things to work out. Though I wasn’t laughing very often (neither were my theater mates). And I really didn’t care if it worked out, although deep down I knew it would. Because if they all died or something how could the producers and stars and directors milk this cow for more cash with part III?

The movie’s set up takes a while. Around the forty minute mark I did start to groove on the sleazy, skeevy, sweaty desperation of the characters. While Alan supplies plenty of one liners that make many scenes bearable (“I'm a stay at home son.”, “I’m a nurse, I’m just not registered.”, “I wish monkeys could skype. Maybe someday.”) the movie doesn’t contain jokes but situations that you either find funny or you don’t. And many of these situations just come across as forced in a way that asks of the audience, "You think we can get away with this? How about this?"

Here’s the supposed funny stuff: a drug mule monkey (not funny), Stu (the groom!) remembering a night of sex with a she-male prostitute (not funny), the wolfpack getting clubbed by silence-vowed monks for talking (kinda funny), the monkey and Alan checking out what turns out to be a penis nubbin protruding from a pile of blankets (so not funny), a wheelchair-bound monk snorting drugs (no comment), and Alan suddenly remembering the night before as a flashback enacted by ten-year-old versions of the wolfpack (admittedly the most inspired bit of the movie).

HO2 spends much of the last 45 minutes scrambling to tie up all the ends, loose, tight and otherwise, so that by the end we are basically back to where we would have been had the wolfpack not eaten that tainted bag of roasting marshmallows (don’t ask). Then, just before the credits, the entire lost night is shown in a series of digital snapshots supposedly taken over the evening by the various characters. This conceit was one of the funniest, surprising parts of HO1. In HO2 it is just the final ingredient in a predicable slurry.

And so maybe in a couple more years for HO3 we’ll follow the wolfpack to mars or to Atlantis or the center of the Earth. Until then, rent HO1 to find out what started all the fuss.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Tuesday night bargain show, June 7th, 6:50 pm. Price: 6.00. Viewed solo. Snack: apple: chopped, bagged.

Coming Attractions: 

Horrible Bosses. The summer of Jason Bateman continues. He, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis play guys who have bad bosses. So, what do you do when you have a bad boss? Quit? Complain to their bosses? Not in this movie: They set out to kill their bosses. It's a comedy. Really. Although, with bad bosses played by Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Spacey, it has potential.

Stupid Crazy Love. Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Julianne Moore. A young couple and an older couple going through dramedy romantic escapades, while Ryan, a player, shows Steve, a shy, awkward dude, the ropes to picking up women. At least that's what I think happens. Along with some other stuff.

Super 8. The kind of movie Spielberg (who produced) would have made when he was ten. It's about a bunch of kids making a little home movie, on Super 8 film, about an alien invasion. And then, guess what happens? Do I really have to spell it out for you? Let's just say, they inadvertently capture some cool stuff on film.

I Don't  Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker overcomes Sex And the City 2 to make another movie. This one, about a woman trying to balance career, kids, loving husband, could have starred Diane Keaton in another decade. With Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks, Seth Meyers, Olivia Munn, and Kelsey Grammer, as another horrible boss.


Cynthia Sherrick said...

I finally watched The Hangover on DVD a couple of months ago based on your recommendation, and was pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed it.

In regards to this well written, insightful review -- I will be skipping Hangover Part II. ;)

Dell Smith said...

Glad you liked the first one - I would feel responsible if you hadn't. But the second one would only leave you surprised, and not in a pleasant way. But in a stinky, smelly, wish-I-hadn't-seen-that way.