In 2009, Todd Phillips’ The Hangover was the unexpected comedy hit of the summer. The success of the film boosted the careers of those involved (most notably Bradley Cooper). Fast forward to 2011 and the team are back in familiar territory with sequel The Hangover Part II, once again teaming Cooper with Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha (plus Paul Giamatti for good measure). Is it possible for The Hangover Part II to deliver fresh comedy to an already tried-and-tested concept?
Stu (Helms) is set to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung) in her native Thailand. After readying his close friends Phil (Cooper) and Doug (Bartha) for the trip, Stu agrees to include Doug’s lonely brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) and Lauren’s younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee) in the low-key bachelor celebrations. Things soon begin to turn sour when Alan becomes increasingly jealous of Teddy’s inclusion in the group. After arriving in Thailand, the groom’s party gather on the beach for a quiet celebration and a discussion of Stu’s future married life.
Stu, Phil and Alan then wake up in a dingy hotel room in Bangkok with the remnants of a wild night scattered around them. Teddy is nowhere to be seen, so the trio must race to piece together the events of the evening, find Teddy, and get back in time for the wedding.
The most important point to make about The Hangover Part II is that it is not even the slightest bit amusing. The film chews on the narrative, plot, camera movements, music and comedy of its predecessor, sucking out all of the humour, fun and spontaneity. It then proceeds to spit the remains into this bitter, clumsy, predictable and downright unfunny excuse for a comedy which not even the addition of a usually interesting Giamatti can save.
The film also takes the central characters of the first film and turns them into unpleasant and unlikeable shadows of their former selves. Alan began as a stupid yet lovable loner, whose irresponsible actions were well-meaning, yet The Hangover Part II turns him mean and transforms his inadvertent wrongdoing into nasty scheming. Likewise, Phil was formerly an irresponsible yet likeable man-child who regularly voiced his justified disapproval of Stu’s former partner due to her appalling treatment of him. However, this sequel morphs the character into a selfish rogue who doesn’t seem to care about the wishes of his friends.
A strong contributor to the comedy of The Hangover came from the relative innocence of the characters. Stu, Phil and Doug were portrayed as normal men who would never have engaged in such wildly elaborate behaviour. They were fish out of water, desperate to return to normality in the face of numerous hilarious obstacles. However, the remarkably similar situation which The Hangover Part II presents removes not only the spontaneity of the former, but also its innocence and comedic core.
The Hangover Part II is a painfully unfunny comedy which replaces every aspect of the first film with similar elements in an attempt to recapture the success of the first. The film is a soulless, heartless and brainless sequel which is utterly without comedy or merit.