26 May 2011

THE HANGOVER 2- Review

'Four friends go and have a bachelor party ahead of (Name)'s wedding, and wind up having a wild drunken night in (Location). When they wake up the next morning, they have the mother of all hangovers, and find some gangsters are after them, looking for their (Noun). Worse still, they've managed to misplace (Name) and have to find him before the wedding. Oh, and there's a (Animal) in the bathroom.'

The Hangover Part II is, in every respect, mad-lib filmmaking. The structure of this sequel is practically identical to the original film, but this time it's mild-mannered dentist Stu, getting married in Thailand. He reluctantly invites along his best friend Phil and giant man-child Alan, and lives to regret it when they all wake up in Bangkok. Stu's future brother-in-law is missing, and apparently, "Bangkok has him now."

Part of what made The Hangover so enjoyable, for me at least, was how unexpected it was. Some fans are already saying this sequel is better, if the midnight screening crowd at Cineworld in Middlesbrough is anything to go by, and I fully anticipate that those people will say that it's unfair to compare to the original. Worse sequels have had this defence applied, but the similarities are so intrinsic here that it's impossible not to compare.

If this film itself were a hangover, you couldn't have had too much to drink, because prior events in these characters' lives are all too sharp in the viewers' memories. Of course you have to compare this to the original! Expecting otherwise is like expecting someone to like your dog better than any of the other dogs they've ever encountered. If it wags and chases its tail, barks, and has a wet nose, it's still a blimmin' dog. The Hangover Part II is pretty much of the exact same breed as its predecessor, but it's considerably more aggressive.

Director Todd Phillips has been promising that shit gets real when the Wolfpack reaches Bangkok, and that the sequel is wilder, darker and meaner than the original. The middle word there is a particular favourite as abstract concepts go. In all of the things that this one goes further with than The Hangover, it's not really funnier. As mentioned, I enjoyed that film because it was unexpected, but the whole rehash of the original is what lets the comedy down in this one.

The Hangover, in addition to all of its enjoyable performances and quotable dialogue and surreal twists, was a detective story. Our detectives, ably played by Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, were all hapless and recovering from the biggest night out of their lives, but watching them pull together to solve the mystery worked so well for me because I didn't know where it would go next. Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms are all equally as good here, but in this instalment, I could easily guess where the plot was going.

If your viewing experience is anything like mine, you'll realise this in one of the film's more inventive moments, in which we see a flashback of events up to that point in the film, as re-enacted by young children. It's different, and surreal, and well-executed, but it didn't make me laugh. Some of the best gags are frittered away in the marketing too, like Alan's baldness and Stu's tattoo and the return of Ken Jeong as flamboyant gangster Chow. But the boldness of the film is almost all bravado and no real innovation.

Without the ability to surprise, the film goes in for shock tactics instead. It's harsher, alright, to the point where some will actually be offended. There was no danger of that in Vegas, which is somehow exponentially safer than Bangkok. Also, I know for a fact that a second act twist is lifted wholesale from an early draft of the first film, meaning that the sequel actually mined stuff that wasn't good enough to make it into the original. It's not all bad news though- one of the welcome reprisals of the first film comes in the closing credits montage, and that's easily the funniest part in each film.

The Hangover Part II is remarkably zippy, for a film in which all of the path laid ahead will be predictable to anybody who has seen the first film. I think that comes down to the fact that the performers are still on top form, their camaraderie preserved best of all, alongside just about everything else from two years ago. If Phillips and these guys want to make Part III, more power to them, and I'll see it. But I'd really, sincerely hope that they bring something different along next time. It's More Of The Same, capital M, O, T and S, but if you still really love the first one, I doubt you'll object too strongly to revisiting the Wolfpack.

The Hangover Part II is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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If you've seen The Hangover Part II, why not share your comments below? I'm taking a week off next week, but I'll return on June 6th with my review of X-Men: First Class.

 I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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