The Hangover Part II was inevitable in our current modern cinema. No film can gross over $250 Million domestic and not have a sequel, and the first Hangover was not only hugely profitable, but a cultural phenomenon that made movies stars out of Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper. But where sequels for genre films tend to advance their characters and tell a different story in a sequel, comedies both have to but can’t totally repeat themselves. That was director Todd Phillips’s biggest challenge with this movie, and the main angle was taking the characters to Bangkok – which makes Vegas look relatively benign – for much of the same results. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Hangover Part II follows after the jump.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the second film is that after following the structure of the original (the cliffhanger sequence where the three are about to admit that they’ve screwed up big time), it has to explain why the main characters are going to Thailand for Stu’s (Helms) wedding, and then why they’d bring Alan (Galifianakis) along. Phil (Cooper) and Stu don’t want Alan, but Doug (Justin Bartha) pushes until they relent. Once on their way, Alan is really jealous of Teddy (Mason Lee) – who will be Stu’s brother in law, and that jealousy puts the story in motion. Probably the biggest problem with the film is that you’re waiting for it to get to the good stuff, and it takes twenty five minutes to set up their wild night. Like a superhero sequel it’s saddled with telling another origin story, but the problem is that in the first film it felt more organic when the boys get into trouble – here it’s labored.
Phil doesn’t want a bachelor party, so they go out for one drink on the beach, but then black out and wake up in a Bangkok apartment. Phil has a facial tattoo, Alan’s shaved his head, and Teddy is missing. Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is with them and remembers everything but then drops dead before he can tell them. So then the group has to put together the pieces of their evening so they can find Teddy. It involved monks, a monkey, drug deals and high powered criminals that include Kingsley (Paul Giamatti).
There are a number of funny parts to the film, and there are laughs throughout, but the biggest problem with The Hangover Part II is that it has to cover so much of the same ground without the rush of the first time. The plot is basically the same, and they make time for a musical number, and another photo sequence at the end of the film (which has the film’s most terrible and hilarious joke). To heighten the film Phillips and his writers torture the most likeable characters, with Phil not only tattooing his face, but the one who has the experiences with Thailand’s most famous nightlife (in a sequence that would be funnier if its punchline wasn’t so obvious). But as the film wraps up, it doesn’t play as cleanly as the first one, and you’re left going “wait, that happened, and they’re okay with it?”
In two years, Zach Galifianakis has gone from sensation to a little overexposed, but funny is funny, and he’s got most of the best moments in the movie. Alan’s such a weird man-child that his visions of himself are a perfect embodiment of who he is. They push it a little hard at points – even he has the edge of re-runs to his work here – but when they nail it (saying goodbye to a monkey), they nail it. Bradley Cooper’s good looking enough that it’s fun to see him get thrown around, and it’s interesting that they make Ed Helms the one who has to suffer more in this film. But the film is an ensemble, and everyone gets their moments and scenes.
Todd Phillips is one of the most cinematic comedy directors of our day, and that’s one of the film’s greatest strengths – he knows how to tell a joke through filmmaking, and the soundtrack (though not as well keyed as the first film) moves the film along at an amiable clip. But it’s hard to imagine wanting to watch this film instead of the first film.
Warner Brothers presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. Picture and sound quality are immaculate, and this is a good looking film. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and digital copy. The supplements are mostly “funny” with a mock-documentary on the making of the film (25 min.) with cameos from J.J. Abrams and Morgan Spurlock that’s amusing enough. Then there’s the fawning/jokey featurettes “The Comedy Rhythm of Todd Phillips” (7 min.), “Not Your Everyday Monkey” (3 min.) and a “Bangkok Tour with Chow” (3 min.), with the latter devoted to Ken Jeong making jokes. Then there’s a gag reel (5 min.) and an Action Mashup (1 min.) – a clip reel of the film’s action sequences.