Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach
Galifianakis in The Hangover Part II
“I can’t believe this is happening again!” screams
buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms) when he wakes up after another night of
blackout drinking with his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach
Galifianakis). But believe it, Stu – this is The Hangover Part II, a movie
that’s bound and determined to hit every plot beat from the surprise 2009 hit The Hangover.
Pre-wedding blackout bender? Check. Sleazy adult playground?
Substitute Bangkok for Las Vegas, and check. Day after spent hunting
down missing pal? Substitute the bride’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee) for the
first film’s groom-to-be Doug (Justin Bartha), check. Adorable mute sidekick?
Substitute drug-dealing monkey for baby, check. Heterosexual white male
privilege of getting rip-roaring drunk and causing havoc everywhere, with
tut-tutting but ultimately forgiving women waiting for them at the finish line?
Check. Or rather, unchecked.
In this sequel, which brings new meaning to the word
“formulaic,” Stu is marrying a rich Thai-American girl in her native country.
(His drunken quickie wedding to stripper Heather Graham in the first film
having been conveniently swept under the rug.) The event reunites the foursome
that oddball Alan insists on calling the “wolfpack,” and even though the plan
is to have just one beer on the beach, Stu, Phil and Alan awake in a grimy
Bangkok hotel room – Alan’s head has been shaved, Stu’s face has been tattooed,
and Teddy is missing, although one of his fingers has been left behind.
And then they’re once again off and running to try to piece
together the events of the night previous, which involved a reunion with the
nefarious Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and an escapade that proves that The Hangover
Part II, for all its other faults, has the capacity for dealing with queer
subject matter in a reasonably progressive manner.
If you don’t want this
centerpiece joke spoiled, skip the next two paragraphs…
At one point, the guys return to a strip club where Stu
apparently got intimate with dancer Kimmy (Yasmin Lee) in the Chardonnay Room.
Kimmy recounts how Stu told her he loved her and that he cried while they
passionately made love. But as the conversation continues, it becomes clear
that Kimmy, while boasting a prodigious pair of breasts, also has a penis. And
that Stu was the, shall we say, receptive party in their lovemaking.
Years ago, this would have been too edgy a joke for American
movies. More recently, Stu probably would have vomited and then beaten up Kimmy
with his friends’ assistance. Instead, Stu shudders a bit – “I made love to a
man with boobies!” – but then the whole episode just becomes another wacky
incident from their adventure. Passive anal sex with a “ladyboy” is treated no
differently than if someone had written “PENIS” on Stu’s forehead with a
Sharpie while he was passed out.
Nonetheless, “The Hangover Part II” is, for the most part,
an exceedingly hacky comedy. The few laughs that emerge come from Jeong and
Galifianakis, although the latter makes Alan harder and harder to laugh at
because the character seems to get more mentally disabled as the film
progresses. Laughing at a goofball who lacks any sense of social cues is one
thing, but Galifianakis makes the character so very damaged that at times it
feels like the movie is poking fun at the autistic.
Paul Giamatti, of all people, pops up as a nefarious
underworld type, and he acts the hell out of a barely-there role. Cooper
continues to be unable to make his total tool of a character feel more
palatable than it does on the page, and Helms does a lot of suffering with some
aplomb. (And what’s the deal with Justin Bartha? He always gets a minimum of
camera time but gets to travel to the fun locations – it’s the acting
equivalent of being the first team eliminated on “The Amazing Race.”)
The makers of “The Hangover Part II” get props for making a
movie that won’t elicit an angry press release from GLAAD, but that’s about the
best that can be said for it.