Trying to Capture Lightning in an Alcohol Bottle.
“I can’t believe this is happening again!” Ed Helms says in THE HANGOVER PART 2. You and us both, Ed.
This movie’s predecessor THE HANGOVER (2009) was not unique, but worked so well because it embraced a kind of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND willful acceptance of its outlandish premise of stranding a clutch of hooligans and forcing them to find their way home against a ticking clock. It worked so well… they decided to use it again.
Copy and paste. Change slug line from EXT. LAS VEGAS to EXT. BANGKOK. Presto! Sequel! Funding!
Uh, guys… generations have not birthed and died; the Earth’s axial tilt has not reversed poles, and the same people who saw THE HANGOVER probably own a Blu-Ray copy of it that has not even been pushed to the back of the shelf yet. So why are we paying to watch the same movie again?
The “Wolf Pack” returns: unfunny Ed Helms as Stu, sexpot Bradley Cooper as Phil and Zach Galifianakis as dimwit Alan; even beige and uninteresting Justin Bartha returns as Doug to continue being beige and uninteresting.
Stu is getting married in Thailand, native land of his bride-to-be (Jamie Chung) and her brother Teddy (Mason Lee), and invites the pack along to celebrate his last night as a bachelor…
And then this movie – in unbridled audacity – rolls out the same gags we saw in THE HANGOVER: a quiet toast raising their glasses – check. Pan up from principals into the night sky – check. Principals wake in trashed hotel room with a hangover – check. Alan’s head is shaved, Stu has a Tyson-esque face tattoo, Doug and Teddy are missing and a monkey chitters about with Teddy’s finger. And no one remembers anything.
Except us. We remember THE HANGOVER.
Ken Jeong appears as an elf-like demonic sprite so high on crack the script almost became original. But hang on – that’s how he made his appearance in THE HANGOVER too. And he was naked there. So much for ‘original.’ Before stopping his heart with a massive bump, he ominously offers advice on Teddy’s whereabouts: “Bangkok has him now…”
On with the plagiarism: checking their pockets for clues – check. The missing person confused for someone else – check. Stu has a ladyboy prostitute – check. Mike Tyson – check. End by looking at photos of their lost night on a camera – check.
Only redeeming factor is Zach Galifianakis, whose dimwitted Alan is still confused enough to be funny in places. Even Bradley Cooper’s chest couldn’t save this movie. Ed Helms should just admit that he’s not a comedian and join an accounting firm. And Justin Bartha should go back to being Nicolas Cage’s bottom bitch.
And now: the finger. Teddy’s finger has been cut off, half the movie spent on its recovery, and everyone – including Teddy – seems pretty calm about it when the Happy Ending Flow Chart reunites everyone. When the Wolf Pack finds Teddy, his hand bandaged, I was expecting the first words out of Teddy’s mouth to be, “Where’s my motherfucking finger?!” But everyone’s just happy and gay. Ironically, the movie is giving us the finger. The writers themselves made Teddy a cellist – not a politician or truck driver or office manager, where the loss of a finger might not even matter – No, he’s a MUSICIAN, where the re-attachment of even a mildly inefficient digit will derail his career. Barring exceptional examples like Tony Iommi losing the tips of two fingers, or Rick Allen losing his arm and somehow struggling back to virtuoso status, how can everyone be so blissfully blasé about Teddy’s chopped-off finger?
The original HANGOVER was so good because the protagonists were victims; they weren’t willful drunks or troublemakers, and were only reacting to their out of control situation. We feel less empathy for HANGOVER 2 because though the characters themselves aren’t to blame, we clearly feel the venal hand of the filmmakers (director Todd Phillips, writers Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Phillips) willfully putting them in this situation, and willfully making them troublemakers, merely to squeeze revenue from a tried and true formula. Have we learned nothing from the decades of inferior sequels spat at us from the maw of Hollywood?
I can’t believe this is happening again!