Mike Myers discovered early on that when you hit upon a great movie formula, you don’t mess with it. Then he went out and made the same Austin Powers movie three times with essentially the same gags, just rotating the babes and cars to make it look different.
Which brings us neatly to The Hangover, Part II. Which should have carried the strapline “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Yes, director Todd Phillips is definitely of the Mike Myers school of sequels.
Hangover II follows the first movie’s format to the letter, starting with the Wolfpack waking up after another riotous stag night, not knowing what they got up to the night before and having to piece it all together from the fragments of memory, phone photos and items they’re left with. So far, so familiar. And given the massive success of foul-mouthed camp Asian gangster Chow in the first movie, Ken Jeong is back with a meatier role this time.
And as if giving Ed Helm’s character a tiger-style face tattoo wasn’t enough of an homage to Mike Tyson…they bring back Tyson himself for an appearance at the end of the movie. Singing. Badly.
But like those Austin Powers movies, The Hangover is a raging success simply due to the winning formula – dragging Zach Galifianakis’ mentally-challenged Alan back out of his parents’ house (“I’m a stay-at-home son,” he deadpans at one point.) for another drugged-up adventure. This time they’ve switched from Law Vegas to Bangkok, which almost works better because waking up with a hangover in a squalid apartment in a foreign country is much more terrifying than Vegas. And of course, Thailand has ladyboys, which no stag night should be without.
This time round, there’s a severed finger, a drug-dealing monkey, a pissed-off arms dealer, Chow dies and gets arrested in that order, Phil (Bradley Cooper) gets shot at and Stu’s (Ed Helms) teenage future brother-in-law goes missing while in their care. And of course, there are obligatory car chases and confusion abounds as the trio try to piece together their actions from the previous evening.
It’s Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong who steal the show though. Galifianakis, as Alan wins with his ability to deliver the most inappropriate lines with a completely straight face. Making a speech in front of Stu’s disapproving future father-in-law, he manages to mention Stu’s brief previous wedding…to a Las Vegas hooker. He repeats the trick at the end of the movie too, when Stu finally stands up to his father-in-law by telling him he’s got a demon inside him.
Stu: “Look, here’s the deal man. I got a dark side. There’s a demon in me.”
Alan: “You mean semen?”
Stu: “I said demon.”
Alan: “You also have semen in you, remember?”
Jeong shines as the highly strung Chow – dying after taking a hit of cocaine, jumping out of the hotel ice machine, driving like a maniac around the streets of Bangkok.
Like its predecessor, Hangover II moves at an impressive pace, packing in gross-out gags, voilence, stupidity and comedy along the way. It remains aware of the events of the first Hangover movie – the guys have a “drill” now for when they wake up in a strange place – empty your pockets, look for clues. Stu’s reluctance to have a stag night follows directly from this. Likewise he vets his drinks carefully to make sure he doesn’t get rufeed.
And of course, it’s Alan, jealous at having to accept Stu’s brother-in-law into the wolfpack, who drugs a bag of marshmallows and inasdvertently starts the riotous evening off.
The film is taking a critical mauling all over the place – mostly for being a direct copy of the first Hangover movie (in what we now know will be a trilogy, which probably makes things worse). The Guardian called it “not a sequel, closer to a shot-for-shot remake”. But critics are also lining up to take potshots at the content, some at the blase way the serious issues of the sex trade in Thailand are glossed over (er…it’s not that kind of movie):
While I realize it was meant to be silly and funny, there is nothing very silly and funny to me about a man who has sex with a Thai transsexual hooker the night before he marries a woman who does not know.
That quote, and a round-up of other negative views on The Hangover, Part II can be found on The Periscope Post.
For my part, the scene with the shemale prostitute was over-the-top hilarious. Gross, blatant and a little bit sickening, but Ed Helms played it with all the shock that such a discovery would have warranted. As to the critics who smacked the movie down on that front – what were they expecting? It’s essentially an extremely adult comedy, not a documentary on the sex trade. I understand the point they’re making, but if you’re going to see a comedy of this type, don’t expect intelligent deep political points to be made.
As it stands, Hangover II is well worth the price of admission at your local cinema. It’s loud, brash, disgusting and you probably shouldn’t take your elderly aunt to see it. Or anyone with strong views on transgender prostitution, obviously. But Hangover II does deliver shocks, laughs and a little bit of macho stupidity. I do worry that a third movie might be Todd Phillips pushing his luck a little bit, but after the criticism of this installment, it may just inspire him to raise his game for the third movie.