Ed Whitfield has been to see The Hangover Part 2 for us, and will review it. But first, he has a confession to make:
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had? For me it was Christmas Eve, 1997; a modest party, with a guestlist of no more than 2,000, was swinging like the proverbial Lord of the Apes at Whitfield House. I came to, dazed and bloody, in a locked drawing room to the sound of thumping on the door. A naked, deceased girl was handcuffed to my wrist.
“Ed, it’s Fabian, are you in there? Milton wants you to meet Maya.”
And then, in a more subdued voice…
“Actually, where is Maya? Gee, have you seen Maya?”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is he going to talk about The Hangover Part 2 at all? That’s your problem, you’re never satisfied with what you’ve got, are you? You always want more. You enjoyed the 2009 original, basting your eyes in the mystery and the man-com; part recognition fest as, after all, we’ve all woken up next to dead girl; and part wish fulfilment exercise. What man wouldn’t like to have the night of his life with his fellow cocks, with all the laws of man and beast cast to one side, only to forget it, thereby laying the ground for a robust legal defence?
However, if you enjoyed the original film and said, ‘man, I wish they’d do another one’, and can’t wait to dive into this sequel, then you must accept the blame for its identikit construction, its lack of risk, and more importantly, it’s very existence. Hollywood studios believe, because we’ve allowed them to believe, that audiences will pay to see the same film time after time. You’re not going to argue with that, are you? Good, because you’re responsible.
Oh yes you are.
It’s strange that this is a “part 2”, rather than a mere, common or garden ‘2’ because if we were to take the filmmakers at their word and put both parts together, we’d we watching one 3 and half hour comedy in which each acts 4, 5 and 6 were identical to the first three; the same events in the same order but, for variety, played out using a set of substitutions, thereby avoiding a messy situation whereby Warner Bros. violate their own copyright and are forced to sue themselves.
For Vegas take Bangkok, for Doug, the Zeppo Marx of the group, here removed from the action early on so the comedians and the brawn can get on with it, take Teddy, the teen brother of Stu’s bride. Just as Doug spent most of the first movie in absentia, Teddy, whose job is to be a human maguffin, also disappears and is found using much of the same methodology. For Stu’s missing tooth take a tattoo, for his marriage to a Vegas hooker take intercourse with a Bangkok ladyboy, which technically being a homosexual act won’t count as cheating in the minds of the heterosexual target audience and so doesn’t threaten to erode their sympathy toward the character on the eve of his wedding, and so on.
It’s odd because you can’t imagine a Godfather sequel that just repeated the action of the first can you? When Back to the Future began its second part, it didn’t begin with Doc Brown phoning Marty and saying, ‘Hey Marty, can you join me tomorrow at 1.15am, I’ve made a similar breakthrough and I’ll need your assistance…again.”
Such movies would be remakes, not sequels and this is what we have here. Attempts at mitigating against audience weariness are lazy in the extreme. The joke is that everything is happening as before, with characters frequently signposting as much, pre-empting criticism like this. ‘I can’t believe this is happening again!’ hollers Ed Helms. Believe it.
Hangover 2 also suffers from being acutely self-conscious when it comes to its status as a commercial property, particularly the importance of foreign markets. This is relatively benign when it comes to its setting, Bangkok would be my city of choice for a lost evening, but when lucrative territories start to get namedropped, not least Great Britain, the greatest nation on Earth, then the commodification of the narrative is complete.
That sense of cynical constructivism even extends as far as the movie’s rating. The original Hangover, we’re reminded in press notes, is the highest grossing R rated comedy of all time and it’s that crudity, producers think, that was integral to its success the first time around. In the remake this manifests itself in a conspicuous upping of the ante. Swearwords are awkwardly crow barred into the dialogue, there’s a curious fixation on genitalia and an odd amount of violence. This is a movie that seems to have built from the rating up.
None of this would matter if the wit was there, but the jokes run out sometime after the first third as the movie gets bogged down in its back story. It’s not a wash out, it’s sporadically funny, but there’s not enough to detract from the fact that this is a premise that was fully explored the first time around.
The Wolfpack are an endearing troupe and are eminently watchable, despite the sense of familiarity that pervades their activities. Bradley Cooper, who remains physically unmolested, in contrast to his castmates, lest his defacing dent his box office appeal, is charming enough. Ed Helms screams as well as he ever did and Zach Galifranakis’ man child once again has the best lines; the women, as ever, are ornamental.
No discussion of the movie would be complete, however, without a word on cameos. Mel Gibson, unloved by the cast, was notoriously cut, his hard drinking, misogynistic, anti-Semitic Schick upsetting the talent. Returning for part 2, however, is Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist. As you watch the boys sink a few beers with the predatory pugilist, you do wonder why Gibson was excommunicated. For some, it seems, the Hangover never ends.
Two and half stars out of five.
Thanks, Ed. You’re very, very generous. Good luck with the court case.