Whenever a film enjoys huge success at the box office and its storyline lends itself to a continuation, it is a very safe bet that a least a sequel will be in the offing, and in some cases the movie may spawn a threequel, a fourquel, and even a fivequel and beyond.
One of Hollywood’s biggest hits in 2009 was a raunchy comedy titled “The Hangover,” about a group of friends who take the groom-to-be to Las Vegas for a bachelor party and end up losing him there. The film grossed an incredible $485 million worldwide, and that kind of success made a sequel inevitable. Thus, we now have “The Hangover Part II,” which set some box office records of its own during its opening over Memorial Day weekend.
Although people have been flocking to theaters to view this eagerly awaited sequel, they may be disappointed when they find out that “The Hangover Part II” isn’t really a sequel at all. Instead it’s simply a carbon copy of the first film with a few alterations. It doesn’t advance the plot, add any character development, or offer anything fresh. It’s the same movie with same director and the same characters doing the same thing they did in the first movie.
In the original film Doug (Justin Bartha) was the one about to be married, but in this movie, which takes place about two years after the fiasco in Las Vegas, it’s Stu (Ed Helms), the dentist, who is set to wed Lauern (Jamie Chung), a beautiful native of Thailand, where the wedding is to take place. Because Stu knows that his friend Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has a propensity to attract trouble wherever he goes, he is reluctant to invite him to the wedding, but Doug and Phil (Bradley Cooper) convince him to include Alan. And the four buddies hop on a plane for Thailand.
After they arrive at their destination, we meet the bride-to-be and soon learn that her father (Nirut Sirihanya) has absolutely no use for Stu and would prefer that Lauren not marry him. Stu even mentions that his daughter will be marrying a doctor, at which point her father replies, “In this country, we do not consider a dentist a doctor.” And things go downhill from there. At the rehearsal dinner, Lauren’s father makes a bizarre toast to his daughter and Stu in one of the film’s very few bright spots.
Now it just so happens that Lauren’s 16-year-old brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is studying pre-med at Stanford, and her father dotes on the boy. In addition to being outrageously intelligent, Teddy is an accomplished cellist and offers a solo after the rehearsal dinner. When the festivities have concluded, Stu, Alan, Doug, and Phil decide to head down to the beach and have one final drink. They also invite Teddy to join them, and if you saw the first film, you know what is coming.
One minute the five guys are on the beach, and the next they are waking up in a squalid hotel room in Bangkok. They have no idea how they got there or what occurred the night before, and they soon discover that Teddy is missing. Just as the bulk of the first movie was devoted to a frantic search for Doug, this one involves looking for Teddy.
In deference to those who intend to waste their money on this movie, I won’t reveal some of the things the four friends discover upon their awakening. But I will tell you that instead of finding a tiger in the bathroom as they did in the original film, this time they encounter a monkey, and it’s not nearly as effective as the tiger was.
Successful comedy often depends upon the element of surprise, and “The Hangover” offered plenty of that. After all, how many people wake up and discover a tiger prowling around in their bathroom or a strange baby in their closet? And the whole concept of having a bachelor party during which the groom disappears was a novel one. The first movie was a success because it was fresh and original. The sequel is not.
As I watched “The Hangover Part II,” I was reminded of a film titled “Groundhog Day,” in which Bill Murray relives the same day over and over ad nauseam. After the second or third sequence the film became monotonously repetitious. All the filmmakers for “The Hangover Part II” have done is substitute a monkey for a tiger, move the location, have a different person disappear, add full frontal male nudity, and drop the F bomb in just about every other sentence. The main difference between the original film and this one is that the former was funny. The sequel, however, is tastelessly gross and crude.
I actually felt sorry for the actors as I watched this movie because they really throw themselves into their respective roles, but they had no original material to work with. But Helms is successful in eliciting our sympathy for poor Stu, and that’s at least something positive. Director Todd Phillips even made a point of mentioning this in the production notes.
“You really feel for Stu in this movie, and Ed brings so much heart to what he goes through that you’re just rooting for him the whole time.”
Those who saw the original will recall Mr. Chow, hysterically portrayed by Ken Jeong, who returned reprise the character with much less success this time around because we know exactly what to expect from him.
The box office receipts for “The Hangover Part II” (It gets a final score of two because of its imaginative title.) have dropped off considerably since the film opened, and so maybe the word is getting around that this film isn’t close to being as good as the original. At one point Stu says, “I can’t believe this is happening again,” and that’s pretty much the way I felt as I watched it.
And I can tell you this for sure. If it happens for a third time, it will be without me.