The Hangover Part II (2011) Review

For those of you who have seen the film, do you remember how you felt when you first watched Todd Phillips’ The Hangover?  Assuming you enjoyed it like I did, you were probably laughing uncontrollably at the unexpected situations the “Wolf Pack” found themselves in and the raunchy, but still humorous interplay between them.  These are only a couple of the qualities that made the film a box office smash, as well as an unexpected success with critics in the summer of 2009.  A sequel for the film was almost immediately green lit and released only two years later.  In the sequel, we meet the same loveable Wolf Pack for yet another wedding, with Stu tying the knot at a resort just outside of Bangkok, Thailand.  Just as the title implies, our buddies have a night to forget filled with adventures of absurd proportions.

So, does it hold up to the standards set by its predecessor?  Simply put, hell no.  Make no mistake, The Hangover Part II is repetitive, unfunny, unnecessarily dark, and, to put more salt on the wound, morally reprehensible.

First of all, I think I speak for most people when I say that one of the qualities that made The Hangover so enjoyable was the script’s – co-written by Phillips, Scott Moore, Jon Lucas, and Jeremy Garelick – unexpected twists and turns that leave the characters, and the audience, in a dizzied state of mind.  In this world, every clue and possibility that they might find Doug is too good to be true and the lack of predictability of the predicaments in which they find themselves makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable.  In the case of this film, Phillips co-wrote the script with Craig Mazin and Scott Armstrong and I’m not sure if the end result is because of a change in writers, but not only does the sequel lack the joyful surprise of each twist, the plotting is completely identical to that of the original.

In the first film, we meet a group of friends, see them travel to an exotic location (yeah, I know Las Vegas isn’t exactly exotic), they get drunk/drugged, they can’t remember anything that occurred the night before, a friend of theirs is missing, and then they have to use clues from the night before to find their friend before the wedding is called off.  The sequel makes use of this same structure, opting for laziness rather than reaching for further innovation.  Even the most minute of details, such as the time lapse signifying the final calm before the storm to the Pack and Stu’s revelation at the death, are copied and pasted into this film, leaving a taste of unwanted familiarity.  Of course, many of the events are not predictable, but they certainly lack the joyful surprise that inhabited the first film.

Secondly, this film’s attempts at laughter cannot hold a candle to those created by its big brother.  In fact, this film drops the candle and burns down the house, the yard, and the forest surrounding it, killing everything that was living quite peacefully before it made its gravest error.  With a director like Todd Phillips, who was best known for films like Old School and Starsky & Hutch before the beginning of this film franchise, one might believe that he is capable of at least the occasional rib-tickling laugh.  Unfortunately, this sequel is completely vacant of the comedy that benefitted the first, and most of it goes back to the scriptwriting.

The first film helped build our ideas of how each character typically responded in each overblown dilemma, which was part of the overall amusement when watching the film.  This time around, the film uses the same patterns in how each character responds to the impending chaos, leaving the characters absolutely no room to develop and turn into something the audience could not have expected.  Once again, the writers choose laziness over progress.  Additionally, because the characterizations are all the same when compared to the first film, each punchline delivered, no matter how raunchy it is, is predictable and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

If any element of this film was unanticipated, it was the cruel nature and darkness surrounding each pickle that drains the film of its possible delight.  Even though peril was present throughout the first film, each problem was infused with a gleeful nature that was infectious and made the audience impervious to feeling the danger lurking around every corner.  Additionally, despite their moral errors in excess, the writers never attempt to punish the characters with each dilemma.  In the case of this sequel, some events reach a level of exaggeration that almost mean to condemn the characters for unwittingly repeating the sins they swore they would never commit again.  Plot points such as Teddy losing a finger, Chow’s suspected death due to a cocaine overdose, Phil getting shot, and a monkey getting shot are written into the script with almost sadistic intentions from the writers.

It becomes staggeringly impossible to embrace each moment with cheerful giggling and, instead, can be received only as unnecessary shock value.  Additionally, there is one part of the plot that is pushed as a major punchline throughout the film, but the seriousness that such an event would be received in reality simply cannot be overlooked.  In the film, one of the twists and horrors that happen to Stu essentially boils down to being rape.  The supposed joke is that, in his inebriated state, he was the recipient of anal sex from a transvestite stripper.  Because of his inebriation, he is unable to consent to such an act being performed on him, and when one party cannot consent, but the deed is done anyway, that is rape.  Rape is far too serious of an issue to make light of and the narrow-sightedness of Phillips and his band of writers is dumbfounding.

The Hangover Part II proves to be lazy, repulsive, repugnant, and the exact opposite of what should be expected from a comedy film.  Without a doubt, this film is the epitome of why many see sequels as inferior to the first film, and this is especially saddening when you consider all of the sequels throughout the history of cinema that have either stood toe to toe with the original or surpassed them.  I certainly hope that The Hangover Part III can correct the numerous mistakes created by this film, but I can assure you I will not be paying to see the end result.  Many who saw the film and did not like it will probably still go see the third film to gain some closure for the series.  The third will no doubt see big box office numbers just like the two films that came before it, and that is deeply saddening to me, especially how those viewers could overlook, like the writers, that rape should never be forced into being the butt of a joke.

If you choose to see the final (supposedly) installment in the franchise, I hope you have fun, but honestly, I pity you.  I give The Hangover Part II a score of 1 out of 4.  Todd Phillips, I condemn you.

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