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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: The Hangover, Part II (spoiler-free)

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And so goes the trouble with sequels to movies that take audiences by surprise. Magic in a bottle can only happen once per bottle.

However… I really enjoyed The Hangover, Part II. It did what a good sequel (not to be confused with a multi-part story) is supposed to do. It takes you back on the journey you enjoyed the first time, it adds some new stops along the way, and it leaves you feeling like a part of its dysfunctional family.

In this case, we’re talking about a first-film that was a house of mirrors, doing what great comedy does… surprising you into laughs over and over and over again… but also, somehow, lingering with the audience. How does this film give you exactly what you expect, but somehow make it seem fresh? I can’t really deconstruct it that much based on one viewing. What I do know is that there is a wedding, again… a bride to disappoint, again… a male red-herring, again… bursts of shocking & funny sex and violence, again… Ed Helms’ Stu growing himself a bigger pair, again… Ken Jeong stealing scenes, again…

For me, there are a couple of significant differences. There is a more complicated role for Zach Galifianakis, as Alan becomes a more active part of The Wolfpack, and thus, the movie. The other change is that there is an odd confidence in our trio that wasn’t in the first film. They have been here. They know they can get to the end. And in response, Todd Phillips & Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong are meaner to them in this film, to make up for the slack. And there’s a monkey.

There is also more size to this film than the original. Is that important? Not? Your call. But it is a slicker piece of filmmaking, as Due Date was slicker than Hangover 1. Phillips is doing a better job behind the camera.

I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of The Hangover. I laughed. I enjoyed it. But it was so loaded with events that after a while, it felt a bit stuck together, moving fast enough never to have its logic questioned. Parts of it, like the sequence going to Tyson’s home, were a bit of a mess. But the punchlines (literal and figurative) kept it going. And the film became a guy version of the fem-culty Sex & The City, as people (male and female) identified with what happens in Vegas taken to the extreme.

The boys are back. Happy to see them. And happy that the filmmakers didn’t overreach. Most sequels do. They are trying, same as this, to reproduce that feeling that made the first film a hit, but try to force in some major variation on the theme. Not this one. (There is a helicopter that there is no need for… but a minor indulgence, given how wild Phillips could have gone after a near-$500m worldwide gross last time out.)

For instance, the missing man, the bride’s brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is as disposable as Justin Bartha’s Doug was on the first go round (and here too). They didn’t try to integrate Doug into The Wolfpack. Nor did they make Teddy any more of a character than Doug was in Vegas.

On the other hand, I kinda like the odd choice of Phil (Bradley Cooper) calling Sasha Barrese’s Tracy again and not someone else who was actually more significant in this story. It was a direct, unblinking call back to the original. And the dialogue, likewise. There is a lot of self-reference in the film… but it’s not coy, trying to pretend it’s not winking at the audience. I appreciate not being treated like a moron.

For me, the bottom line is, did I laugh? And I did. As much as I did the first time around. And in the final moments, I had great pleasure… however predictable the sequence might seem.

I guess that if I expected them to change the game… to push the envelope… to make the sequel that armchair quarterbacks fantasized about… I would have been disappointed that Michael Caine didn’t show up as a debauched ex-pat who knew more about Bangkok hookers than anyone alive… or that the baby wasn’t along for the ride… or that there isn’t really a topper to the Mike Tyson appearance. But I have to say, I thought it was refreshing that they weren’t trying to trick us into loving some other movie. And unless Phillips decides to do “The Wolfpack Meets Count Dracula,” there is probably no reason to do this a third time.

But I laughed.

One last note… I mentioned in my chat with Todd P that I thought this film was better than Bridesmaids. And I think it is. It’s more professional, less unable to let go of its darlings (though this one cycles one idea one too many times too), and more of a movie movie. Bridesmaids is pleasure, but it’s all over the place and Wiig spends time mugging to camera too often and too long for her own good. But the way that Old School announced Will Ferrell as more than a character third-wheel and the way Phillips created DJ Qualls in Road Trip… that’s the stuff of Bridesmaids. It’s a pleasant enough experience, but it is a door opener to the better stuff, more than a great movie. Of course, critics always prefer what they feel they discovered. And so it goes…

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23 Responses to “Review: The Hangover, Part II (spoiler-free)”

  1. NickF says:

    That sounds way too much like a carbon copy for me. It’s just lazy to do the same beats and swap Vegas for Thailand. Going there specifixally leaves nothing to the imagination. The only shock would be how far they push the limits of the R-rating and that isn’t enough to get me to rush out and see it.

  2. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    I would have been shocked if the sequel turned out to not be a carbon copy of the first one. Not going to mess with the formula. Most viewers will probably be more than happy to see a remake set in Bangkok.

  3. Jason says:

    What’s a shocker to me is the almost buried line in the story on about the lawsuit – that the executives testified that they have already spent $80M on advertising. Doesn’t this movie sell itself? I mean, this movie is getting $100M this weekend. Couldn’t they achieve the same results by spending $40-45M? Is that extra $35-40M worth it to try to push the movie to $120M opening (which would be outstanding, but not likely)? This movie was greenlit knowing it had a $100M opening in the can.

  4. arisp says:

    Dave you make some valid points. I might now consider seeing this. But imitation can’t always be the best form of flattery. I mean, couldnt they have brought in someone other than Tyson? Even if they needed an ex-fighter again (lame, but even THAT is at least a bit different), why not someone else? I realize logic isn’t necessary in this type of sequel, but Ken Jeong again? He was integral to the original film, but not integral to the lives of these guys. With all the money in the world to produce this, and the guaranteed success, couldnt the creators have come up with some new characters? The carbon-copying of the film would still be there – just with SOMETHING different. I dont know. I guess Hollywood really is truly terrified of altering the perfect recipe. They should consider this for the next sequel… I’m sure people will see this in droves, and laugh, but I guarantee you the fact that it’s a duplicate of the first one will be mentioned by the vast majority of viewers.

    Also, what about Giamatti’s role and performance?

  5. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Even if most viewers feel it is a duplicate, will that bother them? Or will most be fine with a carbon copy as long as they laugh? Critics seem to care. Part II is at 31% at RT right now while the first one is at 79%.

  6. arisp says:

    Viewers will not mind at all. This time. They might be slightly/considerably more hesitant for part 3. Unless they changed the concept entirely (road trip, or what have you, to which I wouldnt be surprised should they go that route).

  7. christian says:

    It looks pointless and horrible.

    And better than BRIDESMAIDS? A carbon rip-off is better than the film you thought wasn’t as good as LAND OF THE LOST? Gads.

  8. Well says:

    It’s one of the worst sequels ever made. An exact copy.

  9. Eldrick says:

    i didnt know Todd Philips produced as well as directed. my gosh., how much is he going to make off these 2 movies? he is probably ahead of apatow as far as salary.

  10. Robert says:

    HANGOVER (Pt 1) was a decent comedy with an interesting storytelling structure. There were some laugh out loud moments in the film but overall it was just average. What killed were the series of photos that played during the end credits. They were hilarious. The audience left the theater laughing their asses off. I think this lifted this okay comedy into the word of mouth stratosphere.

    Can this film repeat that? It appears it’s repeating everything else.

  11. LexG says:


    CANNOT WAIT for the weekend (Huey Lewis Style) so I can see this at least three times. GUARANTEE this is a four-star masterpiece.

    Only thing is, WHY IS BRADLEY COOPER’S HAIR SHORTER in it? His hair looked INCREDIBLE in the original, kind of grown out with wings on the sides and back, halfway to a vintage Kurt Russell OVERBOARD coif. Now in this, he just has his boring usual hair.

    It’s like when Riggs showed up in LW4 with short hair, or Willis with that STUPID, DISGUSTING shaved head in Die Hard 4. The movie doesn’t even count if the MAIN GUY doesn’t have the same hair in the sequel.

  12. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Interesting observation Lex. Reminds me of the criticism Keri Russell got for cutting her hair back in the Felicity days.

  13. Not David Bordwell says:

    Now that Paul MD has brought up Keri Russell, I’m going to use that as an excuse to jump on the Fairuza Balk thread I missed a couple days ago:

    When Fairuza Balk was supposed to be on Season 4 of the Sopranos, she not only got recast, her scenes were deleted from the end of Season 3 (where I was like “Hey! Fairuza Balk! Looks like she’s gonna make it!”). I wondered what the hell could happen between the end of filming one season and the beginning of filming another, and “creative differences” wasn’t really cutting it.

    Pure speculation on my part, but: Drugs? Was she uninsurable? LexG seems to know something about her — you never heard any kind of dirt like that?

    Balk was kind of awesome in VALMONT, too, which is a better version of that story than DANGEROUS LIAISONS, imho. It’s interesting that Selma Blair played that character in CRUEL INTENTIONS, because for a while it seemed that she, Balk, and Neve Campbell were all getting similar roles (I’m thinking Neve in WILD THINGS).

  14. leahnz says:

    for me ‘hangover: i think they were speaking…asian’ is rather dire, because while in many respects it IS a carbon copy of the original, at heart it’s a rancid, mean journey, not at all in the same spirit of the first flick, and this is where philips gets it bassakwards imho. instead of telling a fresh story with the same endearing (in their own way) characters continuing on their arcs in some new adventure, instead philips appears hell bent on a spiral into nasty-ville after ‘due date’ and falls into the ‘reboot but darker and nastier = better’ trap, wherein he abandons what worked in the first story – most importantly the character development achieved in the first outing – to bizarrely start from scratch, retelling practically the same tale but this time with a callous, demeaning, try-hard ‘edge’.

    the first movie (which i like a lot but i’m not gonzo about) has a certain effortless, goofy whimsy, a hapless charm underpinning the ‘crime caper/mystery’ aspect, it flirts with being mean-spirited but never falls headlong into that quagmire as the lads form their awkward little wolfpack during their travails; it’s a boy’s own adventure and i think most people who connect with the movie are rooting for convention, for the gang to get safely home and see their mate get hitched in a ‘happy ending’.

    for as much of a copy as ‘part 2’ is, it’s almost more like a ‘reboot’ that wants to pretend the first story would just go away EXCEPT for the convenience of being able to replicate the same comedic beats but this time from down in the gutter, trying so hard not to be the rather placid, mundane daylight vegas where most of the first caper takes place that philips cuts out its heart in the process, but then forgets to replace it with a new one. what remains is an occasionally funny carcass that kinda stinks. ick.

  15. Krillian says:

    Yes, but did you spend Nick Cassavetes’s cameo wondering what Mel Gibson would have done with it?

  16. LexG says:

    I love that Nick Cassavettes has this side career as The Cameo That Has to be Explained. (See also, Entourage, which traded on his nonexistent famous reputation as the ultimate terrifying bad-ass Peckinpah maniac director of the new age.)

    Not enough QUIET COOL fans in the world, I guess.

  17. The Big Perm says:

    Saying that Nick Cassavettes has a cameo in this movie as if anyone cares is probably a funner joke than anything in the movie itself. They should use his entire screen time just having characters ask him what his job is and wow, he directed a movie? Which ones, anything they’ve seen? And it turns out the answer is no.

  18. Don R. Lewis says:

    HANGOVER 2 is a massive piece of shit. MASSIVE. I can’t wait to watch that Phillips interview because this movie just smacks of some kind of egomaniacal prick who slaps shit on the screen that he “wrote” and over-directed because he’s *TODD PHILLIPS* maaaaan. I can do anything and it makes money maaaan. I think Phillips is either the next Ratner or the Saul Rubinek/Lee Donowitz character from TRUE ROMANCE.

    I love the first HANGOVER and this one just reeks of not trying. At all. All the things you like, DP, about the familiar journey just stank of lazy money grubbing. I laughed 3 times and once because I’m a closet Billy Joel fan. Bad, unfunny movie.

    And as for the gorgeous cinematography Phillips was evidently bragging about? Yup. Way to go dude. Your second unit did a great job and you clearly have an awesome color correction person. No one cares. Don’t bore me with Bangkok travel bureau bullshit and bring the funny. You did not. #fail

  19. I’m an out-and-proud Billy Joel fan. Yes, the one big laugh for me this time around was the second Billy Joel reference (once again, slight spoiler, Ed Helms has a wonderfully pleasant singing voice). As for the first reference, I was kinda stunned by how effectively Phillips used Downeaster Alexa during the initial flight to Thai. It’s an incredibly powerful song (probably my favorite Joel tune), and it gave the scene a pathos that it didn’t deserve and (in my mind) set the film up with a sense of impending doom that never actually paid off. I knew going in that the movie was basically a remake of the first film. But the first act, with its odd sense of dread, gave me hope that Phillips was going to play a much crueler and meaner little game this time around…

  20. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah I refuse to see this movie for no other reason than the whole Justin Bartha thing. You have a chance to add another piece of puzzle and you go with Dr. Ken? Really? Shouldn’t the obvious point of this Hangover movie be Bartha’s character experiencing in the debauchery for once?

    Much like with Pirates, this film just seems wholly unnecessary. There was not other place to put this venting, so I am putting it here.

  21. movieman says:

    The fact that I didn’t hate it the way I did “Hangover 1” (which actually made my 2009 10-worst list) is something of an achievement.
    Since there’s almost nothing funny here, I was able to relax and stop worrying about NOT laughing. The whole thing kind of plays out like a noir-ish detective story in an exotically seedy locale, and on that level I
    had an….OK time.
    Was also somewhat relieved that Cooper–except for the pre-Thailand scenes (e.g., the IHOP “brunch”)–wasn’t the ginormous asshole he was in the original.
    But seriously “Hang” fans: is there really anywhere to take these characters in a future installment? Kinda feels completely played out to me at this point.

  22. Dan O. says:

    What’s missing is a huge part of what made the first film so good: the element of surprise and the actual joy of having all these crazy situations happen. This is a dark and morbid cash-in and nothing more, except with some chuckles. Good review!

  23. robby williams says:

    there is a huge overlooked telling point to any movie critic.. If a movie has to rely on four letter words in the scrpt within the first 2 minutes your haved failed,….miserably

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