The Hangover Part 2 (Film Review)
3 out of 4 stars
Those looking for gratuitous laughs, thrills and a drug-dealing monkey need look no further than ‘The Hangover 2’ to have their tastes assuaged. Cleverly reusing all of the elements that made the first ‘Hangover’ such a success, this sequel easily charms with its inspired humour, rich performances, energetic pace, and unique Bangkok setting which only adds to the intrigue and unpredictability of the film’s set pieces. Even if it story lacks the originality of its predecessor, ‘Hangover 2’ is still undoubtedly the year’s funniest film to date.
Once again, the Hangover follows the misadventures of the ‘Wolf Pack’, four friends with an uncanny weakness for alcohol. The group includes friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha), and the overweight and mentally challenged Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who only hangs out with the others as a result of Doug’s sister insistence that they take him out of the house.
This time, the gang is off to Thailand for Stu’s second marriage to a local girl Lauren (Jamie Chung). Upon arriving though, there welcome is less than rapturous, as Lauren’s father clearly dislikes Stu and the very idea of the marriage. However, even greater trouble is just around the corner, when the night before the wedding, Phil, Stu, and Alan decide to take Lauren’s sixteen year old brother Teddy out drinking with them on their bachelor party. When the three wake up, disaster falls: they are alone in a dirty hotel room in the heart of Bangkok City, with no sign of Andy, a dead body wrapped in blankets on the floor, a severed finger on the ground, and a monkey with a pack of cocaine strapped to its back. Faced with the possible end of Stu’s marriage, the three mismatched friends set off on a trek across Bangkok to find Teddy that will push them to their limits mentally and physically.
Obviously, the biggest selling point of ‘The Hangover 2’ is its humour, and it undoubtedly exceeds expectations. Featuring every manner of joke from sophisticated cultural satire to animal-gone-wild-antics to scatological gross-out moments, director Todd Phillips manages to consistently entertain every portion of the audience throughout the movie’s runtime. In fact, scenes like the zany car chase through the streets of Bangkok and Alan’s distorted flashback of the drunken night before just might be among the series’ best laughs to date. It’s a credit to the script’s wit and panache that the film manages to maintain such a warm, mirthful tone when dealing with such offensive subject matter.
As impressive as the film’s puns and gags are, even more so are the performances of the actors who deliver them. Returning to the role which first turned him into a star, Bradley Cooper effortlessly slides into the shoes of Phil, the slick, well-dressed, and cocky leader of the group. A major right turn from his work in the recent hit ‘Limitless’, Cooper manages to perfectly pull off the character’s blend of recklessness and machismo, never portraying him as either too posturing or too sympathetic. However, the true star of the show is comedian Zach Galifianakis in his outrageous performance as Alan, a forty year old man with the mental and emotional intelligence of a ten year old. Best described as the evil sociopathic cousin of Mr. Bean and Rain Man, Alan is so bumbling and incompetent that he causes almost all of the group’s problems, whether it be single-handedly alienating Lauren’s father with his wedding speech or elaborately threatening a Thai gangster armed with a machine gun. In fact, Alan just might be the most repulsive movie character of his kind: Galifianakis portrays him as an insensitive, aloof, and utterly malicious miscreant with zero empathy and little to no redeeming features. If Hangover 2 has a villain amidst the madness of its plot, it’s definitely Alan. The supporting cast, including Ed Helms as the meek Stu, Justin Bartha as Doug, and Asian actor Ken Jeong reprising his role as gangster Leslie Chow, is also in top form, with Jeong in particular stealing scenes with his manic delivery and witty lines. Ultimately, ‘The Hangover 2’ boasts some of the strongest acting in a comedy in a recent memory.
The film also benefits from gorgeous cinematography and lighting, largely in part to its exotic Bangkok setting. One of the few locations not normally explored in Hollywood, every bustling market and shanty town street is brought to life in bustling detail, allowing the audience to experience the same sense of confusion and disorientation as the main characters as they search for their lost companion.
Another plus the film has its light and fun tone, never quite descending into the depths of outright obscenity like fellow comedies ‘Jackass’ or ‘Bruno’. With the exception of two short gag-inducing scenes involving male nudity, ‘The Hangover’ wisely focuses on entertaining its audience rather than grossing them out, wisely cutting down on bodily substance humour for the aforementioned broad variety of satiric laughs, that while still risqué and edgy, should always keep the audience’s faces in a smile rather than a grimace. The film’s numerous action scenes also help to maintain its exciting tone, with the car chase in particular working just as well as a straightforward action set piece as it does as a parody.
On the downside, the general plot for the film is weak and unrealistic. What are the chances of the exact same accident happening to the same friends three years later? ‘The Hangover 2’ believes that the chances are high, immediately divorcing the film’s events from reality and lowering its dramatic stakes. The same principle applies to the film’s ending, which is cliché and perfunctory to the point where it lessens the audience’s emotional bonding with the characters. As well as this, the plot lacks adequate structure and depth, moving from one comedy skit to the other with little sense of continuity or plot development.
Even if it’s not in the same league as comedy classics such as ‘Borat’ and ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, ‘Hangover 2’ nevertheless is rousing light entertainment which accomplishes its modest aims with style and charm. Hopefully, Warner Bros. will have the sense to end the franchise here, as it’s easy to see a third entry mechanically repeating the series formula and losing its charm. Without a doubt, ‘The Hangover Part 2’ is a rare sequel that manages to stand on its own two feet against it predecessor.
‘The Hangover Part 2′ is currently playing in Hong Kong theatres.