So much time wasted. For decades, sequels have spent so much energy telling new stories, continuing an old story or flashing back to a previous story. For some reason, they’ve been concerned with moving forward in some way, finding new ways to try to be both original and familiar at the same time. Well, finally, someone has figured out the key to doing a sequel without all that muss and fuss: just make the same movie again.
Thank you, Hangover, Part II, for breaking out of the box and trampling on all those silly ideas like creativity and imagination. Thank you for just giving us what we want: The Hangover—again.
Ok, so I mock a bit, but this remains true: The Hangover, Part II is an exact copy of the original, just set in a different location. The entire narrative structure, the premise, the story, even the interchangeable accessories (exotic animals, cameos) are exactly the same. Even most of the jokes are recycled.
And yet….it is still funny. Not as funny, but funny nonetheless. Fortunately, for it, the makers of Hangover, Part II are able to rip off The Hangover note for note and still make a relatively entertaining film. Why? Because The Hangover was so good. The original film was so excellent because it presented an old genre in new and interesting ways. The raunchy guy comedy was done with imagination, cleverness and a smart recklessness that hadn’t been seen before. It was unpredictable, charming, smart, bold, edgy and hilarious. But it was The Hangover’s restraint—where it could have spiraled out of control and become just another over-the-top gross-out comedy, it stayed true to story and gave the most satisfying comedy film in years.
So, as long as the sequel could bring back just some of that magic, that charm and that ingenuity, it could be tolerable. And tolerable it is, thanks to a proven formula and characters you enjoy spending two hours with. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and the otherworldly Zach Galifianakis return to play Phil, Stu, and the is-he-crazy-or-is-he-not Alan, who, again, brings a whole world of hurt onto our threesome, this time in Bangkok. The new setting provides opportunity for even more raw and raunchy setups, and they are used to their full potential, in spite of the fact that there really don’t seem to be any Thai people in Thailand.
Still, despite the clear formulaic—and predictable— premise, execution and resolution, The Hangover, Part II still works as a better-than-average comedy because Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis stay true to their characters, who are likeable and talented vehicles for a second crazy Hangover trip that rides like another rollercoaster of how-did-this-happen insanity that we love to watch—from a distance.
The Hangover, Part II will have no trouble finding its audience and will be successful—and is even worth the time for a few cheap laughs, even if it feels like you’ve heard the jokes before. After all, summer is the season for reruns.