Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Aroon Seeboonruang, Nirut Sirichanya, Yasmin Lee, Nick Cassavetes, Sondra Currie
Written by: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong
Directed by: Todd Phillips
MPAA Rating: R for for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images
Running Time: 102
Date: 25/05/2011

The Hangover Part II (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Messed Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I was not one of the millions of fans of the original The Hangover (2009); it struck me as fairly sour for a comedy (I partly blame my reaction on a faulty trailer). But this time, for The Hangover Part II, I more or less knew what to expect, and I was ready for it. Now, however, the terrific idea behind the first one -- a mystery story based around a night of total debauchery -- has no more shock.

Admittedly director Todd Phillips and his two co-writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, manage to come up with some good reasons for the sequel, all based around the peculiar behavior of the Alan character, played by Zach Galifianakis. The events of the last movie were the high point of his life, essentially, and he's just pathetic enough to try to repeat them. And so this time Stu (Ed Helmes) is the one getting married, to the gorgeous Lauren (Jamie Chung). Her family lives in Thailand, so best friends Doug (Justin Bartha) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) agree to fly there for the wedding, accompanied by the fiancée's younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), who has been studying in the States.

The boys take great care not to repeat the mistakes of last time, but Alan takes a dislike to Teddy and one thing leads to another: Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in a strange hotel room in Bangkok, unable to remember the night's events. And Teddy is missing. Oddly enough, Doug went to bed early and he's not involved in this story (I suppose the filmmakers wanted to keep the chemistry the same). Thanks to Alan, some of the other characters return, including comic criminal Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), and we meet some new ones, like the mysterious Kingsley (Paul Giamatti). But of course, all the lessons learned in the first movie go out the window so that the characters can learn them all again.

The structure of the movie, the mystery, is interesting and clever, and for me, the funniest material comes in the form of the little throwaway one-liners, things characters just toss out in the heat of the moment. (During a frantic chase scene, Alan intones: "I'm at my wits' end!") But the main gross-out jokes, such as the one in which Stu discovers he's slept with a Bangkok prostitute, are not too terribly effective. A monkey is used to slightly shocking effect, and perhaps the film's funniest moment is an image of the monkey, accompanied to Curtis Mayfield's Superfly music.

In their attempt to raise the humor to new, disgusting heights, the filmmakers sometimes cross the line into the offensive; I was not offended, but many viewers will be. It's too bad that Phillips didn't realize that a mere improvisation from Helms or Galifianakis is worth a thousand gross-out jokes, but even then the strange chemistry of these three doesn't quite seem to work all the time; they all have different agendas in this sequel.

The first movie became a phenomenon, but I doubt this sequel will do the same. I expect curiosity -- and another strong trailer -- will drive viewers to opening weekend, but word of mouth will kill it quickly. At that point, I think everyone will need an aspirin.

Warner Home Video has released a two-disc set with a Blu-Ray and a DVD as well as the dreaded "Ultraviolet" digital copy that fans seem to hate so much. Oddly, and refreshingly, this movie was not released in the usual "unrated" version that most raunchy comedies get. Extras include an offbeat, "unauthorized" making-of featurette, and three small regular featurettes. There's also a gag reel.

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