THE HANGOVER PART II Review

"The Hangover Part II" is probably one of the best examples their is when it comes to drawing the line between film critics and the average movie goer. The film will be a huge success because the first film garnered such a strong response and instilled a loyal audience for this new installment. And the fact that they use the same premise as the first film won't really matter to most of the people going to see it. We simply want another opportunity to hang out with these guys and watch them get into a little trouble while trying to piece together the debacle that was the night before. Critics won't (and obviously haven't) liked this film for its lack of originality and general laziness in the creative department, but the fact of the matter is that if you liked the first one, you're most likely going to enjoy this one as well. It may not be the instant classic the first one became, but it has its moments and you certainly can't say it isn't funny.

There is really no point in briefing you on the story, simply replace Vegas with Thailand and put Stu in the groom's role instead of Doug. And while Doug is removed from the action once again with a sorry excuse that is "Tracey was sick remember? I left early." I really wish they would have included him this time. Instead he is left to sit and conduct damage control while the wolfpack search frantically for Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law. The early parts of the film offer some nice insights into how this group of friends have retained the bond they created in the first film. Making Bradley Cooper's Phil all the more a tool who just really wants to have fun, he relishes the thought of them getting into trouble. The trip to Alan's bedroom is an experience within itself and if there is one thing that truly didn't disappoint about the film it would be Zach Galifianakis's performance. Early on, it almost seemed like they might have taken it too far, made Alan a little more dumb and out there than we could truly believe, but thankfully the balance is kept and Galifianakis plays his scene-stealing character with pitch-perfect innocence and absurdity. There is a section in the film when the guys visit a monestary and are asked to meditate where Alan goes into a deep trance and we are taken on a kind of tour of his psyche, this little piece of storytelling where we see all of the main characters as children except for the 16 year-old brother of the bride, who retains his normal image, is a glimpse at what Alan seems to think is really going on. These guys are just friends, going out and having a good time. There are no consequences or rules, it is only the limits of a childs imagination trapped in the body of a pudy middle-aged man. In a particularly hilarious scene Stu's father-in-law compares him to white, soggy rice and it really reaches back to what seems to make Stu so rebellious in the first place. Stu is adament about simply having a bachelor brunch, but is convinced by Phil to have one drink on the beach with his friends before he takes the dive, and alas we wind up the next morning with no memory of what happened the night before.

While this was the most engaging idea that gave the first one its originality and stand-alone quality, it can't help but feel a lttle tired here. What saves the film, at least in my opinion and I know others have disagreed, is the fearlessness to push the limits of how much chaos these guys actually cause. Director Todd Phillips knows he has recycled the idea, but at least he knew he had to up the anty for the situational humor and in that sense he has fully succeeded. Every aspect of what actually did happen the night before is much darker and pushes the boundaries of gross-out comedy to a few extremes (but it really isn't as bad as you may have heard). There are a few scenes of male genitalia, or lack thereof when it comes to Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow and their encounter with wildlife is now in the form of a drug-dealing monkey rather than just a ferocious tiger. We are given a few glimpses of what actually went down the night before and it was almost as if Phillip's really just wanted to show us these characters in the midst of their drugged out glory (he may want to consider it if he takes these guys on a third outing). What he also needs to do is relieve Mr. Chow of his duties, he is the one thing I didn't really get about the first film. I always found him more annoying than funny and if he didn't serve such a strong point in the sense of the story here I would have complained they just tacked him on simply because they thought the audience wanted it.

By the end of the film, the writers seemed to relaize they were going to have to take a few steps to separate this one from its predecessor and so we are informed that Chow is actually an international criminal and is the subject of a major investigation. Paul Giamatti shows up in a nice little role that lends some prestige to the project and the revelations don't come as quickly or easily as they did the first time around, though still give credit to Stu for figuring it all out. And like the first one, everything isn't as complicated as it should have been and we go out on a high note. So, what have we learned? This repetition of premise won't work again, but the makers did prove these guys can be continually likeable and funny no matter is it's the first or second movie. They can push boundaries, they can take it that far, but they need a fresh take on things. Add Justin Bartha's Doug into the mix next time, he established in his early scenes in the first film he is juat a part of this group as anyone else and if anything he is the glue that holds these guys together. Let him in on the fun, threaten these relationships by damaging that core. Take Chow out of the equation completely and let's see Bradley Cooper's Phil undergo some real damage, not just the physical kind he seems to always endure. No one has to get married, no one has to go missing. All the audience needs to know is that this group of guys is going to be there and that they are at least going to get into a little bit of trouble. I enjoyed the film, I was ready to be let down, but I laughed throughout the entire thing and was satisfied. I really just want these films to succeed and I hope Todd Phillip's and his team know their going to have to thing outside the box if the wolfpack will be back a third time.