Review: The Only Jokes In "The Hangover Part II" Are On The Audience

Unimaginative rehashed gags make a pounding morning-after headache seem preferable to watching this slop.

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Complex Original

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In a recent interview with CNN discussing the sequel to his mammoth 2009 hit The Hangover, director Todd Phillips posed the question, “Since when have comedies really been so much about plot?” Chances are, that’s the exact same question he asked during the first writers meeting for The Hangover Part II, in which he and co-scribes Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin theoretically mapped the entire sequel out.

complex-review-the-hangover-part-2-monkeyWith Phillips’ narrative-free approach to funny movies intact, the writing trio got started on what’d turn out to be a two-year development process leading up to the film’s release today. Here’s a logical guess as to how those screenwriting meet-ups transpired: With footage from ’09 Hangover playing in the background, they’d begin to write fresh material, but then the movie would distract them. One would say to the others, “Hey, that scene was hilarious—let’s use that again!” After they’d drafted 100 pages worth of rehashed gags, familiar character ticks, and identical structure, Phillips and company had a finished script for The Hangover Part II.

Only, this time it’s painfully unfunny and darker to the point of hardly being a comedy. An absolute disaster in every regard, The Hangover Part II repeatedly slaps fans of the first movie in the face with mean-spirited nihilism whenever it’s not insulting them with lazy copy-jobs of the original’s best moments, and even its lamest bits. Relocated from Las Vegas to Bangkok, the “Wolfpack”—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis—have lost both their sense of fun and humor somewhere in customs; in The Hangover Part II, they’re three unlikable guys doing despicable things in a movie that can’t be bothered with such principles as originality, wit, or enjoyment.

The Hangover Part II Is The First Movie’s Evil, Unfunny Twin

Even the film’s set-up is tired. After banging a stripper and breaking up with bitchy girlfriend at the end of the first movie, Stu (Helms) has a new, piping-hot Taiwanese fiancée (Jamie Chung), who he’s about to marry in her native Thailand. Instead of another potentially dangerous bachelor bash, he just wants a “bachelor brunch” in IHOP alongside his boys Phil (Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha); he also refuses to invite deranged man-child Alan (Galifianakis) to his wedding.

Everyone, including Alan, ends up in Thailand, of course, where a campfire on the beach leads to yet another morning-after from hell. Stu, Alan, and Phil wake up in a grungy Bangkok apartment with a cigarette-smoking (and show-stealing) monkey, a new face tattoo for Stu, and a human finger that belongs to his soon-to-be-wife’s over-achieving little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), who’s also missing. The Wolfpack then has to somehow find Teddy before Stu’s wedding, which leads to car chases, recollections of depraved sex, Ken Jeong’s returning gangster, and another random appearance by Mike Tyson.

So, yeah, The Hangover Part II is the exact same movie, plot-wise. Seemingly intent on pushing the material in some kind of way, the writers coat the film in curious darkness. One character gets shot in the arm without a punchline to follow; another finds out that he got boned by a transvestite in an awkward scene that plays like a straightforward heterosexual male nightmare, not an absurdist slice of raunchy comedy; and Jeong, giving one of the most unbearably obnoxious acting performances in recent memory, drops the N-bomb with the casualness of an unimaginative rapper.

A Fitting Subtitle For This Mess: When Terrible Scripts Happen To Once-Likable People

More often than not, it’s difficult to discern what the hell kind of movie Phillips intended to make. At times, he seems to be auditioning for future Goodfellas-type directing jobs, staging scenes with the humorless veracity of a Martin Scorsese picture, though, obviously, he’s no Uncle Marty. It doesn’t help that his cast is on a completely different page. Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis, it seems, thought they were making a comedy (go figure), and, as a result, each channels their respective character’s persona from The Hangover to the smallest detail.

Galifianakis, in particular, delivers the exact same performance, except, here, he isn’t given anything funny to say. All he’s asked to do is spit out lesser versions of his funniest lines from the first movie. Remember the “Did the real Caesar actually live here?” line, when Alan first enters Caesar’s Palace? Well, in The Hangover Part II, it’s “Is there a Long John Silver’s on the island?” when he steps foot into a fishing village. Or how about when he took the baby’s hand and simulated masturbation in the original? Now, he’s sticking a water bottle in a silent monk’s pants and calling it a “Chinese boner.” Hardy-friggin’-har.

Your boy Zach G better pull an Oprah Winfrey and give his fans some cars or other forms expensive swag, because, in The Hangover Part II, he fumbles damn near all of the good will he’s earned since his ’09 ascension to stardom.

complex-review-the-hangover-part-2-meditationIt’s not just Galifianakis who loses all kinds of face here, though; The Hangover Part II, as a whole, is the byproduct of taking the first movie’s script, memorizing its jokes and story outline, stuffing all of the pages into one’s mouth, chewing, digesting, and then defecating the previous screenwriters’ successful work into a smelly, unappealing stool. Yes, Helms’ character sings another song with his acoustic guitar; indeed, their monstrous hangovers are caused by one of their own slipping an illegal substance into something they all consumed the night prior; and, that’s right, the closing credits recap everything the audience didn’t get to see through a dirty photo montage.

The Hangover Part II shouldn’t really be classified as a sequel; it’s more in line with the most insulting of horror remakes. Unbeknownst to themselves, the filmmakers have assembled the comedic equivalent to those awful Michael Bay-produced “re-imaginings” of A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th. Yet, it’s far scarier, because it’s about to make a staggering amount of money, initiate another perfunctory “sequel,” and further convince Hollywood suits that intelligence and ingenuity don’t always have to be priorities.

Sorry, Fans Of The Hangover—You’ve Been Duped

When done with skill, sticking to a proven formula is a wise move—there’s no arguing that. But the folks who paid to see The Hangover, loved it, and helped it become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time deserve something more than an indolent copy of what they’ve already seen. And if you’re going to sluggishly repeat matters, at least try to recapture the same spirit of fun that gave The Hangover’s central find-the-missing-person mystery its vibrancy.

The Hangover Part II has none of that; it’s only concerned with lifting the money from viewers’ wallets and subjecting its characters to cruel and unusual happenings without the slightest bit of cleverness. Then again, Phillips did admit that he’s not all that interested in matters of plot; imagine how bad The Hangover Part II could’ve been had someone on set told the guy that he was making, you know, a comedy that’s actually funny.

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