I managed to my first movie review since Watchmen came out in 2009. Instead of linking you to it on Daily Dischord I’m just gonna straight up post it here. It’s for The Hangover Part Two by the way, which I gave a rather poor score of 4/10.
There’s a moment at the beginning of The Hangover Part Two where Phil (Bradley Cooper) apologises for letting “the wolfpack” black out again, much in the same fashion that occurred in the first film, and one can’t help but feel that he is apologising to the audience too for taking us through this again. For you see, The Hangover Part Two does more than just pick up where The Hangover left off; it’s essentially a carbon copy of the original.
Which is ok if you’re into that sort of thing, but the truth is that under the promise of more hilarious shenanigans are a cast which just seem to be going through the motions, recycling the same jokes used in the first film. It seems like a bit of a lazy criticism to say this film is “more of the same” but never has it been more accurate than when used to describe The Hangover Part Two. In fact, the film is beat for beat identical to the first and much in the same way The Matrix sequels cheapened the effects of the first, so too does The Hangover Part Two cheapen the far superior original. We have Alan (Zack Galifanakis) as the barely likeable man child, responsible for the events of the film; Stu (Ed Helms) once again being the butt of many of the crueller events from the night before that the hapless gang are intent on piecing back together; the aforementioned Dan as the one trying to calmly pick up the pieces and the horrifically racist characterization of Mr. Chow by Ken Jeong that acts to bring a little extra comic relief but fails miserably. It’s not long before we start to get the sense that perhaps a few of these guys are phoning their performances in and really, who could blame them? The modicum of character development exists solely for Ed’s character but even then it’s sparse at best, followed by gag after gag that does more than just echo the first film.
But unlike the first, where it’s ridiculousness was just about on the believable side of outlandish with the jokes growing ever more outrageous, the sequel decides to trod the same path in slightly darker, more sinister colours but rarely, if ever, managing to pull off the same level of surprise or humour that made its predecessor such a brilliant comedy. In fact, it actually goes as far as erring on the completely unbelievable side of ridiculousness thus ruining just about any sense of reality the film has, particularly towards the end – (**spoilers**) on what planet, for example, does one crash a speed boat into a beach with not a single sole batting an eyelid or even passing comment on it? In what way is it ever acceptable to shoe horn in a completely silly cameo from Mike Tyson and then go even further by making him sing when he’s completely tone deaf? They might as well have just had the Fonz jump the shark on screen and be done with it, frankly.
I think I laughed about twice during the film and that was in disbelief at what I was seeing, not at the quality of the jokes. Do the producers really think we’re gullible enough to fall for the same tricks again? (Sadly, it seem like we are if the box office return is anything to go by) More often than not I found I was able predict what was going to happen next. I’m not just talking about the reuse of the same gags and jokes, but rather identical use of identical plot devices to drive the film to it’s climax. It’s all the same right down to the moment of “epiphany” where Ed works the whole thing out. Scene after scene of completely ripped off material is what’s on display here, except it lacks the heart, the warmth, the joy and the fun of the previous film.
As I said, it’s ok if you’re into that sort of thing. Comedy sequels rarely surpass or even deviate from the ideas and format laid out by their predecessors, and perhaps the stunning lack of originality on display here is a result of having a completely different team of writers, this time including the director, on board. Perhaps this is where the problem lies – with a new set of screenwriters (three, no less) attempting to copy the success they had before seems like a no brainer, but for me? I’m just not buying it. People will go to the cinema expecting more of the same, but surely we should at least expect more than a straight copy in a new setting?
I just can’t decide if this lazy film making, obnoxious film making, or utterly soulless corporate film making designed to create a lifeless franchise on the back of a surprising, funny and joyful first installment. Maybe it’s a combination of all three, but whatever it is, I can’t help but feel we shouldn’t stand for a shameless copy devoid of the things that made the original so great. There is a limit on giving people what they want, and what The Hangover Part Two demonstrates is that people may WANT more, but they’re not getting more – they’re simply getting the same old stuff in new packaging. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; perhaps that’s where this whole thing should have stayed too.