Review: ‘The Hangover Part II’
At it again, these guys. Warner Bros.
2. This time, rather than Justin Bartha getting married, it's Ed Helms, to a Thai woman whose family dislikes him because he isn't exciting enough. How little they know. The movie labors to find reasons not only to bring the gang back together -- including the film's one funny scene, in which we see what madness ensues in the bedroom of Zach Galifianakis' Alan -- but also to shoehorn our three protagonists into the precise scenario they were in last time, down to the roofies and bleary-eyed morning, the presence of Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow character, and even Mike Tyson, whose appearance makes less sense and is decidedly less amusing. There are at least four different instances in this film that one character says some variation on the line, "I can't believe this is happening again!" That might work once, self-referentially; by the fourth time, the jig is up.
3. "The Hangover" was funny, of course, but the reason it worked was because there was an actual mystery: How did these guys find themselves in this predicament? The film was almost a whodunit, a reconstruction of a backstory, little slivers of discovery that kept topping themselves, leaving enough questions unanswered that the photographs from the blackout night that played over the closing credits were not just a riot, but also a clever way to fill in the gaps we were legitimately curious about. Here, there is no mystery, no surprise, no out-of-left-field shocks; the film doesn't even bother to telegraph the scenarios, instead just reciting them. Out of desperation, we get Paul Giamatti and a monkey, neither of which are used to much effect. They're just here to pad the running time.
4. Another reason the first film was funny is that it felt legitimately unchained; its most outrageous moments were truly shocking yet believable, the id of boys unleashed in Sin City. As tends to be the case in sequels that don't quite understand why the first films were so beloved, "The Hangover Part II" simply amps up the "outragous" without any real context, turning them more puerile than jaw-dropping. Thus, Ed Helms doesn't just pull out his tooth; now he has a facial tattoo and has sex with a male prostitute. Oooh! Gross! The film doesn't quite get what made its characters fun in the first place either. Bradley Cooper's Phil was a raffish douche in the first film, but he was still loyal to his friends and, through it all, his family; in the end, he was pretty much all talk. Here, with Cooper now a bigger movie star with a reputation to uphold, he's a reaction shot with hair. The biggest disappointment of all is Galifianakis, who walks through most of the movie like he wasn't aware there was a sequel clause in his contract. His presence in the first film was a revelation, a cosmic shot of insanity that kept spinning the movie off in unforeseen directions. Here, Alan is just peevish and weird, lacking any of the radical-angle comic verve Galifianakis specializes in. In the two years since "The Hangover," Alan has turned from an uproarious hallucinatory man-child into Cousin Oliver. It's depressing to watch him.