Ed Helms

Review: The Hangover, Part II

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The Pitch: How can the same shit happen to the same guys twice?

The Review: I’m sure you recognise the pitch – John McClane expressing an almost fourth-wall breaking level of surprise at his predicament in Die Hard 2. The biggest curse that sequel found itself under was attempting to remain too many elements of its wildly successful predecessor, and the script felt the need to acknowledge the unlikeliness of a New York cop single-handedly taking down terrorists and saving his wife while battling police incompetence on Christmas Eve. Twice. But you know what? While you might only go on your own stag do once, or maybe twice these days, the possibility of everyone getting steaming drunk and getting into larks every time they go on one isn’t actually all that small. So the main surprise in The Hangover, Part II is not that Phil, Stu and Alan end up on another disastrous stag night, it’s that the events of the second stick quite so closely to the events of the orginal, with the main difference being that they’re in Thailand.

Thailand – sleazy land of ladyboys and seedy tattoo parlours, yes? Well no, I had my honeymoon in Thailand, four days in Bangkok and six days on an island, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. While that was six years ago, even Thailand during the recent unfortuate civil unrest looks more appealing than the one that director Todd Phillips and his crew have conjured up. Apart from the very nice looking hotel outside the city where the wedding is due to take place, this is a Bangkok that feels trapped in an alternate universe – one which is probably where the new versions of the characters have appeared from. Initially it’s hard to reconcile the bunch of unlikeable slackers that appear on screen with the people we know from the original, and it isn’t really until Alan appears that anything starts to be familiar.

Zack Galifianakis was one of the breakout stars of the original, and his brand of obsessive weirdness is back in force, giving the film a reassuringly familiar feel. After a while, though, you’ll be hoping for a little originality, as the beats of the original are played out in absolute strict succession. So begins a procession around Bangkok’s trashy underbelly, where the group steadily realise they’re in more and more trouble, and the stakes get raised that little bit higher. Of course, the humour as a consequence must get pushed that little bit further, and that’s when Part II hits real trouble – much of the humour relied on the surprise factor of the original, and the sheer predictability of the follow up means that even chuckles are now few and far between and the belly laughs are now non-existent.

The Hangover, Part II manages to be racist, homophobic, showcase a cruelty to animals and you feel it would be misogynistic if there were such a word that applied to ladyboys, and much of that might be excusable or at least watchable in a very dark comedy if it was in any way funny. Sadly the only real adjective that can be applied is lazy – there are a smattering of good Alan moments, most of which aren’t as good as the comparable moments from Part I and Stu does a great riff on a Billy Joel song while on a boat, and that’s really the sum total of what there is to enjoy here. When you see the Nick Cassavetes tattooist cameo and realise that the joke would have just been that it’s Mel Gibson / Liam Neeson in tattoos, then the complete lack of ambition becomes totally apparent. The Hangover, Part II takes a bunch of guys whose hijinks on their bachelor party gets out of hand in a good natured way, and pushes the concept past a tipping point where each of them becomes an unwatchably unpleasant reflection of the original and the good nature is replaced by a constant ill will. The abiding feeling is one of a dodgy Seventies TV sitcom that takes all of its characters on a package holiday and leaves the laughs at home in what must be the most ill-judged sequel since Babe 2: Pig In The City.

Why see it at the cinema: Apart from two or three tracking shots and the rooftop hotel restaurant scene, there’s very little to suggest that this couldn’t all have been filmed on a beach in Florida. There were a few people laughing at various intervals at my showing, but they were very much in the minority. If you’re really desperate to see this then do so with  as large a crowd as possible as it will maximise your laughing potential, which otherwise will be very limited.

The Score: 3/10