I have the utmost sympathy for whoever decided to make a sequel to a hugely successful film like The Hangover. Sequels are never a simple thing, and the more specialized and distinct their predecessors are, the bigger the challenge is. Even worse, since the first film was also a critical success, a poorly received sequel could destroy all credibility.
That’s the case with The Hangover: Part II. Following the most successful R-rated comedy of all time, Part II looks to fill some pretty substantial shoes, and it doesn’t quite fit.
Which is hilarious, considering we’re talking about a goofy comedy, not some fantasy epic or thriller. The word “epic” is actually a great way to describe Part II, as not only does it involve the three members of the Wolfpack—Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zack Galifinakis)—but it ratchets up the insanity of its predecessor. How do you top Las Vegas, the Western equivalent to Sodom? By dropping these dudes off in Bangkok, the Eastern equivalent to Gomorrah.
This time around, Stu is getting married to a nice girl in a resort outside of Bangkok. Guilt-tripped into inviting Alan by Doug (Justin Bartha), the four dudes and their respective ladies are off the “city of squalor” to deal with overachieving brother-in-laws, spiteful father-in-laws, and Alan’s general disposition as an obnoxious and stunted human being.
It’s not long before our boys wake up in a grungy hotel room in Bangkok, just days before the wedding with a drug monkey, the finger of a 16-year-old, a massive face tattoo on Stu, Alan’s buzzed head, and Mr. Chow himself (Ken Jeong). Just like last time, the guys don’t remember a thing, and they have only a few hours to set everything right.
Bangkok, as a city, seems to be much more dangerous than you’d expect, and as the guys troop through the mess they made trying to figure out what the hell happened, they take a veritable tour of the sights and sounds of the city. Monks, tattoo parlors, bars, strip clubs, ladyboys, drugs, and lots more–these guys know how to party.
Unfortunately, while The Hangover: Part II goes exotic for the sequel, it’s missing a little of the “oomph” from the first film. The characters are racing against time, and they are obviously under a lot of stress. The antics are hilarious, but there’s less pressure on the characters to make everything happen. After the unique character of the first film, a sequel just feels like going through the motions in a bigger and badder way, and that doesn’t necessarily make the film any better.
That’s the biggest problem with Part II. It’s trying so hard to live up to the hilarity of the first film, but the gimmick of the franchise feels more implausible than ever. Right now they can crack jokes about drug-induced amnesia happening twice, but is it going to work a third time (if movie studio plans are to be believed)? I like the three leads. I like their characters, and the movie is probably one of the funniest of the year, but its premise is getting weak. Part II feels like a money grab, and that’s exactly what it is.
Go see The Hangover: Part II, laugh a bunch, and then cry because what was once fresh and original has been processed and formalized.