by Mel Valentin
When Stuart Price, actor/comedian Ed Helms’ character in "The Hangover Part II," says, “I can’t believe this is happening again,” he obviously didn’t see "The Hangover’s" box-office returns. A surprise hit two years ago, "The Hangover," an R-rated, buddy comedy directed and co-written by Todd Philips ("Due Date," "School for Scoundrels," "Starsky & Hutch," "Old School," "Road Trip"), ended a remarkable commercial run with almost $470 million internationally ($277 million domestically, the rest internationally). The return-on-investment (ROI) is even more impressive when "The Hangover’s" $35-million budget gets added to the mix. With those numbers and that ROI, a sequel was as inevitable as a quarterly sex scandal usually, if not exclusively, involving a conservative politician.Practically a beat-for-beat remake (if not scene-for-scene one), The Hangover Part II swaps out Bangkok, Thailand for Debauchery Central, U.S.A. (Las Vegas). The premise hasn’t changed either, except it’s Stu, the mild-mannered, unprepossessing dentist with a wild side, who’s getting married, a second time if you count the Las Vegas hooker in the first film (he doesn’t, but we should). Stu’s met and romanced a beautiful, young woman, Lauren (Jamie Chung), who against all reason (except maybe that he represents material security and, of course, because the screenplay demands him), agrees to become his wife, presumably until death or disinterest doth they part. Lauren’s ultra-traditional, Thai-born parents have little (actually no) respect for Stu. When Lauren’s father (Nirut Sirichanya) isn’t trashing Stu to his face, he’s doting on his son, Teddy (Mason Lee), a 16-year-old cello prodigy and pre-med student at Stanford.
"Or Frat Boys Run Amok: The Sequel...."
Despite the first film’s events, Stu remains friends with alpha male Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), Doug Billings (Justin Bartha), the semi-best-bud whose pre-wedding, Las Vegas disappearance fueled the first film’s events, and Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis), the self-described “stay-at-home-son” and all-around oddball who bonded with Stu and Phil during their Las Vegas misadventures. Wary of repeating the past, Stu hesitates in inviting Allen to his wedding, but ultimately agrees under duress from Phil, a mistake Stu almost regrets several days later when he wakes up in stained, white underwear and a newly inked face tattoo. Phil looks worse for wear when he wakes up from the all-night bender. Allen just loses his hair to a seriously under-qualified bad barber. This time, Doug doesn’t go missing (he’s safely ensconced back in the Thai island resort), but Teddy, setting up, once again, a frenzied search for Teddy in the streets, nightclubs, and even a Buddhist monastery.
Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the self-described “international gangsta,” one-time Wolfpack nemesis, and all-around force for chaos, is back, this time as an erstwhile ally. Before he can recount the previous night’s events, Mr. Chow collapses, leaving Stu, Phil, Allen, and a scene-stealing, chain-smoking monkey they find in their hotel room, on their own. They cross paths with all manner of underworld and netherworld figures, including Russian gangsters who, naturally enough, want their chain-smoking monkey back, a Middle-Eastern arms dealer, and the stand-in villain, Kingsley (Paul Giamatti), a well-heeled gangster who wants something only Stu, Phil, and Alan (and the chain-smoking monkey) can provide, leading, inevitably, to the restoration of the natural order (i.e., heterosexual monogamy rules, outré sexual relationships don’t).
With a rinse-and-repeat formula, Philips and his writing partners, Craig Mazin and Scott Armstrong, rely heavily on the hit-making R-rated humor of the first film, e.g., a combination of slapstick and gross-out gags, verbal one-offs (the cruder the better), the increasingly panicked reactions of The Hangover Part II’s cast of characters, callbacks to the original film (more or less of the “remember when…” variety to exploit audience goodwill and remind them of the first film’s commercial success), an eclectic, eccentric soundtrack featuring everyone from Kanye West to Curtis Mayfield to Danzig and Billy Joel (among others), well-honed chemistry between and among the cast, including Jeffrey Tambor as Alan’s over-indulgent father and a certain former heavyweight champion proving he was a much better boxer than he is a singer. And, lest we shall forget, the chain-smoking monkey, the sequel’s breakout star.Mashed together into "The Hangover Part II's" overlong, over-indulgent two-hour running time, the result is, at best, wildly uneven; at worst, yet another example (as if one were needed), of the law of diminishing comedic returns that drive formulaic sequels to comedy hits like "The Hangover Part II." Never fear, "Hangover" fans. With a big opening weekend, Stu, Phil, and Alan’s (and Doug, presumably) return for a second sequel is all-but-guaranteed. With Alan remaining as the only unmarried character, wee can expect him to walk down the aisle in the final minutes of the next sequel, albeit after roughly 48-hours of drug-fueled debauchery, massive amounts of property damage, and other borderline criminal mischief.
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originally posted: 05/25/11 19:17:16