Back in June of 2009 an R-Rated comedy was coming out from Old School director Todd Phillips, one that had no A-list names attached to it, and was written by scriptwriters, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who had no major hits to their name. In fact, the screenwriting team had more going against them with comedy bombs like Four Christmases and The Ghost of Girlfriends Past. On paper, The Hangover didn’t look like it had a lot going for it. Oh what a difference two years makes.
The highest grossing R-Rated comedy of all time, The Hangover, is back for an unnecessary sequel that unfortunately lacks the charm and humor of the first film. Ditched this time are screenwriters, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, replacing the duo is Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, who had hands in cinematic masterpieces like Scary Movie 4 and Semi-Pro. However, Lucas and Moore should get full writing credit since Part II of The Hangover series is almost a direct retelling with nothing more than a setting change.
Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), aka “The Wolfpack” are back yet again for another night of debauchery that no one can seem to remember, with yet another trail of destruction they must use to track down Stu’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Teddy (Mason Lee), the day before Stu is set to marry the beautiful Lauren (Jamie Chung). Instead of the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mantra of the first film, we are now treated to “Bangkok has you”. As most Americans don’t understand much of what is outside their borders, Bangkok makes for a much harder place to relate to than the commercially friendly Vegas.
The major problem with The Hangover Part II comes down to originality. It might have sounded good on paper to rehash the first film beat for beat with a more exotic setting, but on screening it comes across as trite, and sometimes painfully obnoxious. The first film was full of unexpected turns in the story which made it an extremely entertaining comedy, but if you saw the first film you know every turn the second film will make as well. Sure, the film is a bit more “zany”, well that is if you consider the addition of a few more penises on screen a laugh riot.
The cast doesn’t seem to be as nearly in sync as they were during the first film. Granted, since the release of the first film the main cast has gone on to achieve considerable success, and has made the jump to the highly coveted “A-list”. The trio of actors all feel like they are phoning in their performances. I take that back, Ed Helms still seems to be giving it his all, but is constantly upstaged by the quirky Zach Galifianakis who was endearing in the first film, but is mildly annoying in the second installment.
That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its funny moments, it just never hits the same heights as its predecessor. It is every bit a highly calculated ploy to ride off of the coat tails of the original. The only real improvement I can say of the series is that the photography of the film is an improvement over its predecessor. I was amazed sometimes at how well the action was framed, and the quality of the lighting. Although, if I’m being honest with myself, I’ll probably be one of the few people who notice the change.
Rumor has it that director Todd Phillips already has a story set up for The Hangover Part III, and there is almost no doubt that this film will generate enough money at the box office to make a third sequel viable. I can only hope that with the next installment they worry less about keeping to formula, and more about generating an amusing story.