Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hangover Part II

Three characters call their friend's wife to say that they messed up after a night of drinking. Cue the opening credits as shots of the local landscape appear. Flashback to wedding planning. Then some drinking. Then those same three characters wake up in a hotel room with a member of their party missing and must piece together their previous night. Sound familiar? Not only is this the plot to The Hangover, but also the plot for its sequel. Then again, I'm surprisingly not complaining. I mean, when the word hangover is in the title, did one not expect the characters to get hung over? Yes, they learned their lesson the first time, they just have to learn it again. Thankfully, writer/director Todd Phillips makes up for there being similar plot elements in this sequel by having a clever plot-structure and frankly, still making the story very funny.

In this installment, Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to Lauren (Jamie Chung) in Thailand and invites Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Allen (Zach Galifianakis). Instead of a bachelor party, Stu decides to relax on the beach and drink a few beers with Lauren's younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee). Well, something goes wrong and the members of the Wolf Pack wake up in a Bangkok hotel room. Stu has a Mike Tyson tattoo, Allen shaved his head, Teddy is missing, and there is a monkey in a Rolling Stones jacket prancing around. In a sense, the moments perhaps feel funnier than they should because we are so comfortable with these characters as they don't have to win us over. We welcome them as we would another TV episode of The Three Stooges.

Phillips excels at making raunchy movies and does proud the likes of Judd Apatow, John Landis, Kevin Smith, Ivan Reitman, and the Farrelly Brothers. He knows exactly what to have his characters say and do at the right time to get a laugh. Now before I go on I should say that if you aren't a fan of the kinds of comedies that have been coming out since around 2005 (or just raunchiness in general) than you might want to skip this even if you thought The Hangover was just okay. This actually makes the first film look tame. That being said, I'm happy this comedy continues in the vein of the likes of the filmmakers I just mentioned above.

Some random points... Lawrence Sher does a phenomenal job with his cinematography. He somehow enhances the comedy by making everything look great just like he did with the first installment (as a side note, his credits include Kissing Jessica Stein, Garden State, I Love You Man, and Due Date). Bangkok looks as sleazy and as it is attractive, like a stereotypical Asian Las Vegas. As for the cast- Ken Jeong and Paul Giamatti are memorable (and throw in the usual Tyson-cameo as well), but Zach Galifianakis once again steals the show. As an actor he has mastered being passively clueless and one never knows what he is going to say or do next (see the dinner toast for hilarious proof of that).

If you are shaking your head at this review, then stop reading before I say this- the film even has heart. Perhaps it is more thinly veiled than Judd Apatow's comedies, but there is a message to be found. We've heard the message before with these same characters, yet that doesn't make hearing it another time any less enjoyable.

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