If the main problem with The Hangover Part II were simply that it retreads the original, I might be willing to forgive it. It has after all been two years since I saw The Hangover, a film I very much enjoyed, and it’s about time I got around to seeing it “again”. But alas, while that is one of the film’s major problems, it is hardly its worst. There are simply no likeable characters in this entire film. Not one.
Now this isn’t to say that films need likeable people in them to be watchable, because that’s simply not true. In the case of a dark drama like, say, There Will Be Blood, or a hellish western like The Proposition, it makes sense to have characters so deeply flawed that the audience has no one to root for. It works for character studies. But The Hangover Part II is supposed to be a comedy, and without a single person for the audience to latch onto, this is a mostly painful and laughless endeavor.
Because this is not entirely the same film as the original. There is one fundamental change, apart from moving the action from Las Vegas to Bangkok. Zach Galifianakis’s Alan is no longer the man audiences fell in love with back in the summer of 2009. The Wolf Pack experience has pumped up his ego and made him feel like a big shot. The loveably naive obliviousness of the character is gone, and in its place a festering pit of jealousy and darkness. Alan is just a dick in the sequel. They all are. Put lightly, everyone in this movie is just a fucking asshole.
Some, like Bradley Cooper’s Phil, were already assholes in the original, I admit. But Cooper was still able to make the character charming in the first installment. Phil was a jackass, sure, but the kind that everyone knows — the guy who might be a bit full of himself, but you still want to be friends with. Here he’s just a sociopath who you should stay away from if you value your life.
And maybe if you’re reading this right now and you’ve seen the movie and liked it, you’re thinking “Well what about Stu? Ed Helms wasn’t a jerk in this.” And you might be right (well, he kind of was, but anyway). But if he is the so-called “normal” one in the group that the audience is meant to relate to, it is pretty painful to watch him go through the exact same character arc that he went through the first time out. The pay-off of seeing the perpetually downtrodden man finally stand up for himself is significantly lessened when you spend the whole movie wondering why he’s such a push-over again. (…right, so we can watch a remake, I forgot.)
And even looking past that, Helms spends much of his screen-time screaming his head off in reaction to whatever kooky situation the boys have found their way into now. While that might be suitably over-the-top considering the situations, it eventually just becomes shrill and annoying. It’s as if Todd Phillips & Co. looked back at their work in The Hangover and thought “Movie was alright. Needs more screaming.”
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some laughs to be had, and a few clever touches I very much enjoyed (the “Alan-Vision” sequence wherein every character is a 13 year old boy was rather amusing). But it just strains so hard to recreate the original in every conceivable way. When Stu picked up the guitar to sing another song, I nearly walked out of the theatre. It just didn’t make any sense. Stu’s song is one of the highlights of The Hangover, in part because it comes out of left field and the lyrics are quite funny. And while Stu is certainly invested in the problem of losing Doug, he’s removed enough from it that you can buy him making light of his situation by putting it into song. Here Stu’s life is the central conflict of the story, and in the scene immediately preceding the song he basically starts having a nervous breakdown. But of course, since this movie has to follow the original beat-for-beat, that’s where the song went before so of course we have to have the same thing here.
You can say I’m over-thinking things looking for logic in a movie that’s supposed to be a mad-cap comedy, and that might be fair. But I look for things like this when a movie isn’t entertaining me enough to distract me from them, and for the most part The Hangover Part II is just not entertaining. It’s being touted as being more daring and wildly inappropriate than the first, but really it plays it pretty safe and predictable. I mean really, how can anyone possibly be shocked at the inclusion of ladyboys in a movie set in Thailand? Come on!
I didn’t expect much coming in given the word of mouth, but what I got was even less. When I go to the movies on a Cheap Ticket Tuesday and come out feeling like I still got ripped off, that’s saying something. This isn’t a decent time-waster. It’s not funny. It’s just bad. And that’s a shame.