Film review: The Hangover Part II

23 June 2011

Written by: Suzannah Macbeth

In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy The Hangover (2009), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, subject of The Hangover, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch.

But that kooky wolf pack from the first movie is back in The Hangover Part II, and so things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.

This time around, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up shaved and tattooed, and missing Stu’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Doug. The expected antics ensue — and by ‘expected’ I mean the same as in the original Hangover — but The Hangover Part II is still as entertaining, albeit not nearly as funny, as the original hit comedy.

Cooper, Helms, Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips have returned for this second installment. By design, the sequel is practically forced to replicate the first film, a curse the franchise will struggle to break if it wants to continue cranking out sequels.

The first Hangover succeeded not only because it was funny, but also because it was unpredictable. No one knew what would happen next or how the guys would escape their predicament. This time, new screenwriters Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3) and Scot Armstrong (Old School) are confined by the same now-predictable formula, and it shows. The element of surprise is gone, leaving the characters only to escape one wacky situation after another.

The Hangover Part II is still entertaining. There are several funny scenes and plenty of disturbing moments. Even if the course of events are predictable, it’s still fun to see what the writers have come up with and what the characters have gotten themselves into.

Given that Part II is still attracting audiences, it would be surprising if Warner Bros. isn’t already contemplating a third installment. If they proceed, they should learn from the flaws of this film.

The formula needs to be varied, if only slightly. The new supporting characters should be more interesting (Paul Giamatti, Mason Lee and others add little to the equation). The writers shouldn’t rely on tired jokes just because those jokes worked in the past. Ken Jeong’s increased presence is amusing but runs its course well before his final scene, and Mike Tyson’s cameo isn’t nearly as clever as it was in the first one.

The Hangover Part II feels forced and lazy at times, and yet there are enough funny and insane moments to keep the audience engaged. It isn’t perfect and isn’t nearly as hilarious as the first movie, but it is an adequate follow-up. Make sure you see it before the crowds dwindle; it’s always better to watch comedies in a crowded theatre.

George Galanis is a  Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University