by Ryan Hill
With its twists, turns and a then unknown Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover” took moviegoers by storm in the summer of 2009 en route to becoming the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time, besting 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop.” Can a “Hangover” sequel live up to the original? How could it top it, or was it even possible? The short answer is, sadly, no, it doesn’t live up to the original. And instead of topping it, the sequel just amps up the dark and tones down the funny.
This sequel’s idea of topping the original is to take the exact same plot, right down to every last beat, twist and turn (even the opening credits are exactly the same), change the words Las and Vegas in the script to Bangkok and insert much more male nudity.
Here’s what’s different about the sequel: this time it’s Stu (Ed Helms) getting married instead of Doug (Justin Bartha), and instead of losing Doug after a night of drunken debauchery in Las Vegas, they lose the bride’s younger brother during a night of drunken debauchery in Bangkok. Again, with a lot more male nudity.
Everything that made the original “Hangover” a runaway success the first time around – the amazing chemistry between leads Bradley Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis, the giddy excitement and anticipation of wondering what will happen to these guys next and the fact that it was Las Vegas – is wasted by the sheer laziness that surrounds this sequel.
Most of the twists and turns aren’t funny or surprising, since they already happened in the first film. Helms’ hysterical fits were funny the first time around, but not so much now. Galifianakis is still entertaining, but after playing essentially the same character for director Todd Phillips three times now (including last year’s “Due Date”), even his act is starting to get tired. Cooper, whose career was made with the first “Hangover,” seems to spend most of the sequel wondering how he got wrangled back into this thing.
Yes, “The Hangover Part II” is darker and more disturbing than the original. Other than that, it’s exactly the same, beat by beat. But it does have some very funny scenes in it. Many of them involve a cigarette-smoking monkey but another hilarious bit involves Alan trying to remember what happened the night before, only all of the main characters are out partying as children. Even some of the male nudity is hilarious, or just plain shocking, depending on your disposition.
The carbon copy feel to the film could be forgiven, were it not for just how dark and nasty things get for the Wolfpack this time around. In the original, fun was the name of the game and, with “The Hangover Part II,” you know what that next step is if you’ve seen the original, so the fun is gone. And it’s been replaced with darkness and depravity. It makes you feel bad for these guys and the amount of money they’d have to spend on shrinks to get over what happened to them.
The expectations for “The Hangover Part II” were probably too astronomical to live up to in the first place, and maybe that was just too intimidating for everyone involved. Instead of rolling the dice and taking a chance, “The Hangover Part II” plays it entirely too safe, so much so that it isn’t even really a sequel. It’s more like “The Hangover: The Bangkok Remix.”