Movies about guys who do the sort of bonding shit that guys generally do are always popular with men. They’re relatable and even if you (assuming you are a guy) have never engaged in the activity that is the subject of the film, its something you are probably well familiar with. THE HANGOVER was that sort of movie. A couple of guys go to Vegas for their friend’s bachelor party, get stupidly drunk, and engage in the sort of shenanigans that most guys usually dream about getting into but don’t. That first film came out in 2009 and to this day, its still reverentially discussed around poker games, pool tables, and frat houses. To any Warner Bros executive, a sequel to THE HANGOVER was a no-brainer and it didn’t really matter whether anyone could come up with a decent story. The studio knew that with enough raunchy humor, audiences would easily pack into theaters to witness the return of the Wolfpack. Although I wasn’t really expecting anyone to come up with a good story for THE HANGOVER PART 2, I also wasn’t expecting that the studio and Todd Phillips, the director, would be so lazy as to literally recycle the same exact plot of the first film. I can’t speak for others who saw the sequel this past weekend, but I for one felt like I got totally ripped off.

THE HANGOVER PART 2 really is the same story as the first film but this time its set in Thailand instead of Las Vegas. This time Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to his Thai fiancée, Lauren (Jamie Chung), and he has planned the wedding to be in Thailand. Stu’s friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are invited to celebrate the wedding as well. Along for the ride is also Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), a pre-med Stanford student. After the wedding reception, the guys all get together at a beach where they drink and toast Stu and Lauren’s happiness. Just like in the first film, we next see the guys passed out in some seedy hotel room in Bangkok. They wake up not knowing what the hell has happened to them and they discover that Teddy is missing, there is a chain-smoking monkey with them, and Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) is sleeping in the room with them. The rest of the movie is about the guys trying to find Teddy and return in time for the wedding ceremony.

If there is another place besides Las Vegas for a group of guys to get into insane trouble, Bangkok perfectly fits the bill. The city’s dark, seedy, anything goes vibe is an ideal setting for our characters to go in search for a missing person and run into interesting characters. On the other hand, it would have been damn nice for the filmmakers to have concocted a plot that didn’t replicate beat for beat the same exact situation they found themselves in in Las Vegas. I understand and appreciate that the underlying premise for THE HANGOVER doesn’t leave much room for the filmmakers to play with in coming up with an idea for a sequel. That is why I never found Warner Bros’ decision to make a sequel to be that appealing.

At the same time, since we’re going to have to accept that the same story is going to be told, we should at least be able to confidently expect a high quality level of comedy. If you’re not going to entertain me with good storytelling, then at least make me laugh my ass off. THE HANGOVER PART 2 does contain laughs and some scenes are deliriously funny. (SPOILER ALERT) There is one scene in particular where Stu discovers that his previous night’s encounter with a Bangkok prostitute wasn’t exactly with a woman. However, for much of the film’s running time, I wasn’t laughing at all. Instead, I kept noticing how much darker in tone the film was, which took away from the film’s humor. What’s more, the characters this time around are less funny, much more annoying, and generally unlikeable (especially Alan and Stu). Alan feels creepy and obnoxious for most of the film and I think I can safely say that I am now over Zach Galifianakis’ brand of humor. Even my favorite character from the first film, Leslie Chow, has failed to recapture the manic, unhinged craziness that was present in the first film. Here, he’s more subdued and his jokes feel one-note.

As bad as it is to recycle the same old shit from the previous film, THE HANGOVER PART 2 also suffers from lazy, implausible storytelling. For example, I could never understand why Doug, the guy who went missing in the first film, doesn’t join up with his friends to find Teddy. He spends the entire film back on the resort where the wedding party is staying updating his friends on his phone as to how pissed everyone is that his friends haven’t found Teddy. Why wouldn’t he simply go to Bangkok and help out his friends. Besides, Doug was mostly missing in the first movie so it would have been nice to have seen him get more screen time in this movie (unless the actor isn’t funny or his character wasn’t developed enough to earn more screen time, which I suspect to be the case). In addition, when (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) Teddy’s dad finds out that his son accidentally and drunkenly severed his finger with a knife, he doesn’t seem all that much fazed by this. The movie spends some time stressing how much Teddy means to his father so you would think that his son chopping his finger off would be a big f-ing deal to his dad.

Overall, THE HANGOVER PART 2 lacks any of the spontaneity and originality that marked its predecessor. In the previous film, the situations our characters get into are unexpected. They get into one situation after another in an unpredictable fashion that helped build the film’s humor and move the story forward. Here, nothing seems unexpected because we know that the same story is being told. We know that Teddy is going to be found safely sleeping in a place that was right under our characters’ noses the entire time. Consequently, each situation or scene simply comes off as routine; as if the filmmakers are following a pre-established narrative outline.

The best thing about this film is Paul Giamatti’s appearance as a criminal drug lord. His screen time is woefully short and I would have gladly welcomed for the film to have dropped its characters and repetitive storyline and focused exclusively on Giamatti. His brief scenes completely overtake the spotlight from the rest of the cast and he is the sole highlight of this movie (and no, Mike Tyson’s return wasn’t a highlight).

What was fun in THE HANGOVER is now stale and it reeks of the studio’s obvious attempt to make a summer cash-cow (which it already has). If you want great raunchy comedy, check out BRIDESMAIDS and see how a comedy of high caliber is really made. The characters have now become more unlikeable than they were before and completely unfunny. The number of funny moments in this film can be counted on one hand. I was hoping THE HANGOVER PART 2 would have retained its childish ANIMAL HOUSE/AMERICAN PIE sensibility, but unfortunately we become saddled with a movie that is more dark and sinister than it should have been. THE HANGOVER PART 2 is one of this year’s most disappointing films and whose big box office will be generated solely on the goodwill created by the genius of the first film.

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