Todd Phillips’ The Hangover really came out of nowhere, featuring no big-name stars and a plot that seemed recycled from Dude Where’s My Car? Nonetheless, something about this hapless band of roofie’d child men resonated with audiences, allowing “The Wolf Pack” to scare up over $450 million in worldwide grosses.
The Hangover: Part II, which hits theaters today, is Warner Bros. attempt to re-capture the magic of the first film. They have a lot riding on this film, spending much more on the budget and on stars’ salaries, and bringing the action from Vegas all the way to Bangkok.
We don’t typically discuss comedies on the /Filmcast, primarily because comedies are so subjective. How can one judge what is “funny”? Different people invariably find different things more amusing than others; the sight of a monkey simulating oral sex on a monk may be uproarious to some while tiring to others. The creators of The Hangover: Part II seems to realize this and in crafting a sequel to their well-received original, they have opted not to take many chances with a tried-and-true formula.
What’s uncanny about Hangover 2 is that it is almost a straight-up remake of the first film. Not only is the basic plot of the film somehow duplicated, but the vast majority of the story beats are re-created as well. Even Justin Bartha, who plays lost friend Doug in the first film, is excluded from the festivities this time around for no apparent reason, save that director Todd Phillips (who also co-wrote the screenplay) did not want him messing with the dynamic created by Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Bradley Cooper. It takes some degree of ingenuity to re-imagine such a plot and transplant it to a foreign place, and Hangover 2 certainly accomplishes this.
But is the movie funny? I certainly had a great time in my packed screening. The jokes this time around are more vicious, with Ed Helms (as usual) bearing the brunt of the abuse, and the scenarios are more fantastical. A lot of the pleasure in the film comes from seeing how Phillips is able to re-create all the gags and story beats from the first movie, but there are enough gross-out, hysterical, and insane moments to make the film watchable, despite its lack of originality.
What I appreciate the most from The Hangover films is the sense of place they are able to create. DP Lawrence Sher and music supervisors George Drakoulias and Randall Poster are able to capture Bangkok in all its glory and menace. Together they work to create the ephemeral image of the vacation you never had…and are glad you didn’t.
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