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Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

The Hangover Part II (2011)

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Premise: A sequel to the 2009 film. The original cast reunites in Bangkok the day before one of them gets married and once again the group finds themselves trying to recall what happened the night before.

What Works: The Hangover Part II will satisfy fans looking for nothing more than to relive the original film. Those who like this kind of gross out, frat house, men-behaving-badly style comedy will get a kick out of the new film which, for better or worse, manages to mostly outdo its predecessor in shock value.

What Doesn’t: The Hangover Part II is very much a rehash of the first Hangover film. In fact, it isn’t so much a rehash as it is a remake. All the familiar elements of the original film are left intact such as the basic premise, the main cast of characters, the backtracking format of the plot, the relations with a prostitute, and the involvement with organized crime. Even the apparently new elements of the Hangover sequel are modifications of elements from the first film: instead of Las Vegas, the action takes place in Bangkok; instead of a baby, the characters adopt a monkey; instead waking up with a broken tooth, a character wakes with a tattoo. But with all of the familiar elements in place, The Hangover Part II is missing any sort of unpredictably or novelty, which is exactly what made the original film work so well. Instead, Hangover II experiences like a film created by marketing analysts who wrote the screenplay in the form of a checklist of everything that was popular about the original, with the only creativity found in turning up the volume. Few things are as unfunny as a familiar joke and that’s largely what Hangover II is made of. And by repeating and embellishing all of the gags from the first film, Hangover II exacerbates the problems of the first picture. Never minding the plot holes and illogical or stupid actions of the main characters, the real problem of the first Hangover was its ugly underside that made a joke out of sexism, homophobia, and white male privilege. The Hangover’s take on these jokes is not the self-conscious variety displayed in South Park or Bruno, where audiences are invited to laugh at the fools instead of with them. Both Hangover films are about being a chauvinistic pig and getting away with it, but the original film lessened the impact of that message by soft peddling its more malicious themes, creating characters that were interesting and even sympathetic, and including gags that were funny and had the habit of punishing the main characters for their stupidity. But this second film has none of that charm or originality while it makes a deliberate step of trying to turn sexism, homophobia, and racism into comic virtues.

Bottom Line: The Hangover Part II is the masculine counterpart to 2010’s Sex and the City 2, which was similarly vapid, culturally imperialistic, and a formulaic sequel. Fans of the original Hangover might like this follow up, but whatever joy is found in this film comes only by way of reminding viewers how much fun they had watching the first film.

Episode: #342 (June 5, 2011)