The Hangover Part II (2011)

(In theaters, June 2011) The platonic ideal of a sequel is to recreate the experience of the first film while bringing something new to it.  So it’s not much of a surprise to find out that the screenwriters at work on The Hangover II felt completely justified in stealing the original’s structure almost plot beat per plot beat.  It’s certainly familiar, and that may not be ideal: Part of The Hangover’s appeal was the delirious way in which it went left and right, bowing to traditional narrative expectations only late in the third act.  Here, the element of surprise is gone, and viewers can feel themselves anticipating what should have been twists.  It also lends an unfortunate feeling of laziness to a film that nonetheless went around the world in big-budget style.  It could have been worse, mind you: The characters are recognizable without feeling reduced to catch-phrases (although Zach Galifianakis’s always-irritating “Alan” went from slightly-retarded to too-stupid-to-live in-between the two films), the Bangkok location provides plenty of good color, the rhythm of the film is fine, Bradley Cooper makes for a capable anchor, Ken Jeong is just as refreshing in his brief scenes (even though his presence is absurdly contrived) and up to a certain point, setting the film far away makes it feel a little bit less reprehensible that the quasi-local hijinks of frat-boys gone wild in Vegas.  Still, the film as a whole doesn’t feel quite as joyful as the first one: the laughs seem to suffer in the face of increased danger and raunchiness.  But it’s the feeling of familiarity that brings The Hangover II down, a sense that it’s quite literally going through the same motions as its predecessor.

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