Thursday, May 26, 2011

Menace, Dread, And A Monkey: The Hangover 2

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

If you liked "The Hangover" but thought what the movie needed was sweatier actors, a bigger sense of menace and dread, and chicks with dicks, then "The Hangover 2" might be the movie for you. But the truth is, if you've seen "The Hangover" then you've also seen "The Hangover 2," because aside from the above, and the addition of a monkey, (an addition I actually applaud), they are the same movie. In fact, this feels more like a remake than a sequel.

Perhaps writer and director Todd Phillips thought the very fact that everything that happens in the first movie is repeated in the sequel is a comedic premise in and of itself. "Ha ha ha! You see? It's so ridiculous that the same debauchery and amnesia would HAPPEN AGAIN. Hilarious!"

Sorry, no.

So, this time around, Stu (Ed Helms) is the one getting married, though, of course, not to the stereotypical ball buster he was with in the first movie. His bride is a young Thai-American woman (played by Jamie Chung, who will always be that boring chick from "The Real World: San Diego" to me), and while it's possible to read some kind of disturbing stereotyping going on with that choice, it probably just exists to get the guys to Thailand.

And get to Thailand they do. Yes, all of them. Phil (Bradley Cooper) has a kid, but is still a bit of a douchebag. Doug is around as much as he was the first time, which is to say, almost not at all. (And how annoyed must actor Justin Bartha be, not getting to have any fun in either of these movies?) Even Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the nut-job responsible for their original mayhem, is asked to join them in Thailand, out of sheer pity.

After a rehearsal dinner, in which Stu's future father-in-law does not hide his contempt for his daughter's choice in life-mate, the "Wolf Pack" take to the beach for a nice, quiet bonfire and a few beers. The bride's little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee) tags along, much to the chagrin of Alan, who views Teddy as a potential threat to his bonding time...

The rest plays out as the first one did. A blurry morning after in a hotel room; someone missing; no memory of the night before; etc. etc. Instead of a baby, there is a monkey. Instead of a missing tooth, there is a tattoo. Instead of a tiger in the room, there is Chow (Ken Jeong). Just recounting these plot points is pissing me off. The sheer lack of imagination should be offensive to anyone who pays money to see this.

And sure, perhaps all this would be forgivable if the movie was actually funny. But it isn't. Instead, there is an overwhelming sense of danger and gloom that overshadows most of the fun. The action sequences aren't particularly exciting, certainly not funny, and definitely not new. Galifianakis's Alan, whose utter weirdness in the first movie was the source of a lot of laughs, is just played out in this one, and nothing he does is surprising in any way.

The goal of many sequels is to be bigger than the film that preceded it. But much of the success of "The Hangover" lay in the complete outrageousness of its comedic situations, and much like Stu in the private dance room of a Bangkok strip club, they simply blew their wad the first time around.

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