Movie Review - The Hangover Part II (*1/2)


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THE HANGOVER PART II.  102 mins.  R.  Directed by Todd Phillips.  Written by Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips.

How's that line go?  "Second verse, same as the first."  Welcome to The Hangover Part II, folks.  Just last week, in my Pirates 4 review, I discussed one of my least favorite types of sequels: the kind that don't raise the bar.  While those are problematic, sure, they pale in comparison to the grave mistake made by The Hangover Part II (following in the footsteps of similarly flawed sequels like Home Alone 2): it's the same damn movie!  Part II is utterly worthless as a movie, as a sequel, and as summer entertainment.  It is the epitome of lazy screenwriting, amounting to nothing more than a scene-by-scene redo of the original with only minor tweaks.  

Don't believe me?  Let's break it down.  Part II trades Vegas for Bangkok.  A baby for a monkey.  A missing tooth for a face tattoo.  Stu's (Ed Helms) bitchy, disapproving girlfriend for Stu's bastard, disapproving father-in-law.  Alan (Zach Galifianakis) spiking Jagermeister with Alan spiking marshmallows.  Missing Doug for missing Stu's brother-in-law.  Chow jumping naked out of a trunk for Chow jumping naked out of a freezer.  I could go on and on.  The story elements are familiar, but so is the structure.  It begins with Phil (Bradley Cooper) saying they f**ked up again.  There's a wedding.  It ends with everybody gathering around a camera to see photos of what happened the night before.  
There may be the occasional funny moment or line - how could there not be given the comedic talents of the three main actors - but it's only about half as funny as the first.  This overfamiliarity causes problems elsewhere too.  Part of the reason the first Hangover worked so well is that even when it wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, it still worked as a mystery.  What did happen to the guys last night?  Because Part II tells the same story, we know exactly what happened to them last night.  So, when the characters are confused, shocked, and wonder "what the f**k?", it's not as funny as it once was.  The best parts of the movie are the first 20 minutes, where we're allowed to catch up with the characters and see where they are now.  The movie coasts by on audience goodwill for another 45 minutes or so, but then flatlines around the one-hour mark.
The blame here has to lie with co-writer/director Todd Phillips.  Though I like him as a comedy director - he's got a dark, playful visual style and he uses music well - he really let fans down with this one.  I don't know if the production was rushed, but they had two years in between movies to come up with a better concept.  Also, by using Part II in the title, it implies that this is a continuation.  You don't even need another hangover plot device because the hangover from the first movie still applies.  Phillips could have reunited this cast and done almost anything else with them and it would have been funny.  But the fact that he so cheaply cribbed from the original and didn't really come up with any new ideas speaks volumes: not only about the filmmakers' motivation for the sequel (money! money! money!) but for their contempt for the audience.
The Hangover Part II is going to make mad money this weekend.  I was eagerly anticipating it, and I know others are as well.  People loved the first Hangover.  If done well, they would have lined up for any number of sequels.  Not anymore.  Part II sucks on its own, but it also cheapens the laughs of the original.  Enjoy the money now, guys.  Congrats.  You've just tanked the franchise.

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