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May 30, 2011

Hangover Part 2 Review -- Three Stars

Couple of biases: 1, I thought the first one was okay but to this day do not understand what the fuss was all about. I thought the first film's premise was stronger than its actual execution. I was expecting an almost mystery-like plot as they retraced their steps, such that finding out what happened would be exciting as well funny, but I didn't think they really did that. There weren't any sudden comic pieces-coming-together realizations or intersecting plot lines (a la Seinfeld); they mostly just retraced their steps. Funny enough, but not clever, I thought, and nowhere near as funny, or wild, or I-can't-believe-what-I'm-seeing as others seemed to think.

2, I've been stuck looking at a dude's dirty gray drawers for two days and he's not even hot. So I was primed to laugh.

So my expectations were pretty modest and I was a good audience for the movie. That said, I thought it was better than the first one, at least a half-star better.

On the plot, yes it's a nearly-beat-for-beat rewrite of the last plot, but, what could be expected? That plot wound up being a surprise smash, and that plot is the entire franchise, so you betcha, this plot follows the last one's major beats. They got out the stopwatch and timed the beats from the first movie. I can't blame them. If I had this assignment, I would have gotten out the stopwatch myself.

There are differences, though. The first Hangover began the "hangover" plot of the movie with a slow pan over a super-luxe Vegas hotel room, displaying the comedic aftermath of a night of really really hard partying, including an abandoned baby, a chicken (do I remember that right?), and of course a Bengal tiger. Funny, but almost funny in a Mad Libs sort of way -- let me top you next with my crazy aftermath item, then you top me, then we write it into a scene. Silly and funny, but kind of light-hearted, despite the desperate circumstances the movie suggests they're in.

The "hangover" plot here starts a dingy, roach-infested Bangkok hovel, and the vibe here is less Tom Hanks' Bachelor Party Turned Up to 11 and more Hostel 3: Bangkok Limbhackers. It's not as funny, not in a laugh out loud way, but to me it's a little funnier, because it's so dark: Okay, last time was just some fun and games, but this time they're really in a bad way. To me, at least, turning up the grimness and darkness was actually kind of funny, not because I'm so dark-hearted, but because now I felt that edge of genuine danger and calamity I thought the last one was trying for, but pulling punches on.

I think the vibe they were going for was "Urban Legend" -- like "A man wakes up in a tub full of ice to discover his kidney is missing..." That sort of dark opening. And, in patches, it does get a little worse than that.

There's a flip-side to this, though: As far as content, the entire movie goes far further into sickness and darkness and just plain awfulness than the first movie. Funnier, I think, but stronger than usual hard-R content warning for a nearly unrelenting indulgence in every crime and depravity known to man. I have edited that word in-- "depravity" -- thoughtfully. It applies.

Funny? Yes. I laughed consistently throughout it. And, as I said, there really was a pall of danger over the proceedings, and anything awful could happen at any moment, so the movie had the feel of a thriller, too, with genuine moments of shock. And relief.

Although I didn't realize I liked the characters from the first one all that much, it turns out I guess I did, because from the first moments of seeing "The Wolfpack" back together again I felt a nice feeling of good-to-see-them-again. Bradley Cooper has sharpened up his character some, as the guy who thinks he's pretty damn cool, and actually is pretty damn cool, but he's not nearly cool enough to get away with the substance abuse he's indulging in; Ed Helms, too, as the safe, bland guy who under no circumstances wants to go back to that hell again.

Chuckles here and there and Ed Helms makes various pronouncements about what will not be happening in the future, because, of course, we've seen the trailer. We know how terribly wrong he is.

Zak Galifanakis is good, but not as good as in the first outing, where the character was a surprise original, and on top of that, I don't think they've given him lines that are equally as funny. I can't remember anything quotable like "reh-tard." He is still funny though. More of a matter of him losing 10% off his game while the other two elevate by 10%.

One disappointment for me was that they didn't work Doug into the movie this time, and they could have. I guess I just felt bad for Doug, the actor himself, sort of getting short-shrift in a surprise blockbuster, and had expected them to work him more into this one; but, in fact, I'm pretty damn confident there's less of him. Just seems unfair. And it might have been a little funny to have Doug along, who did not go through the horror-hangover plot of the last film, seeing what this is like, while the other three -- now old hands at this -- say things like, "Yeah, this happens."

One minor thing is that I really wanted a certain horrible thing to be fixed at the end, or undone, or demonstrated to have been not as bad as assumed; they didn't do that, but left the horrible thing as the horrible thing. Ah well.

The closing pictures of the night's events contain, again, some of the biggest laughs in the movie, and I think they might have outdone themselves from last time.

Overall: I think this is minority opinion, because I was in the minority last time of not thinking the first Hangover was so great, but I think this one is better. But it is pretty darned dark for a comedy -- not just raunchy, but dark -- and isn't for everyone.

Here's the Difference, I Think: In the first one, I felt there was a sitcom-y, gaggy nature to the proceedings. This is naturally sort of reassuring, in that it's distancing; you're aware this is a goof, so it's not really serious.

That helps people deal with the awfulness, that feeling of unreality.

I think this one pushes away from comic unreality more towards naturalistic/horror reality -- not all the way there, of course; this is still a comedy -- and that makes it darker, more dramatic (in the sense that this feels more playing-for-keeps and less madcap-romp), and for me, funnier, because I thought the humor was more rooted in reality.

On the other hand, there's less of that reassuring distancing, so if you're put off by awful material, there's less comfort that this is just a gaggy movie.

And there is some awful material here. If the question is "Would you recommend this to your mom?," the answer is no, I would not recommend this to my mom or yours or anyone's.

Reconsidering/Re-Warning on Content: Dr Spank and others remind me that despite my being down on the first Hangover -- liked it, didn't love it -- there really was a lot of funny material there. And it was, overall, cheerier.

So maybe this one isn't funnier. I think this one is more desperate and grounded in a dark reality. Maybe as funny, or nearly the same level. Others find the first funnier.

And I also think that I should offer a stronger warning than I had. Without wishing to tell you the exact nature of the material here (that would spoil jokes), I will note the original featured drugs and prostitution. This is a sequel. The rule of a sequel is "bigger," or, for this type of movie, more extreme.

And I do not want to give spoilers, but let me stress there is very objectionable, raw, hard-R material here that may upset some.

For the sequel, they had to go further, and they did.

What the hell they could do in the next one, short of amputation or forced gender reassignment surgery, I have no idea.

I guess Martin Lawrence says it best, as he says everything best.


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posted by Ace at 07:33 PM

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