DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips.
CAST: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Mason Lee, Justin Bartha, Jamie Chung, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Tambor, Sasha Barrese, Yasmin Lee.
SYNOPSIS: With Stu (Helms) choosing to marry Lauren (Chung) in Thailand, he invites Phil (Cooper), Doug (Bartha) and future brother-in-law Teddy (Lee) along for the ride. After being roped into inviting Alan (Galifianakis) against his wishes, Stu’s preferred ‘Stag Brunch’ turns into another night of mayhem resulting in them waking up in a seedy apartment in downtown Bangkok – without Teddy. Their quest to find him involves severed fingers, cocaine-dealing monkeys and one rather unfortunate tattoo… Will they find Teddy before the wedding?
I have to admit I was fully prepared to have a lot of bad things to say about Todd Phillips’ The Hangover Part II. Like usual, I stupidly allowed myself to read a number of reviews and decided the film was a carbon copy of the original before I’d even seen it. I did this with X-Men: First Class, followed the hype and was disappointed. I did it with The Hangover Part II and was pleasantly surprised. Is it too much to hope this theory will work with Green Lantern…? Thought so.
First and foremost, Stu (Helms) is the centre of this sequel. While Galifianakis’ Alan still comes out with some cracking one-liners, Ed Helms really is the star of the show, finally being given a chance to stretch his comic muscles and at the same time turn Stu into a stronger character – a man with a demon inside, perhaps. From the initial opening that scans the Bangkok streets, classing the film as more ‘gritty’ (the Part II reference is of course homage to The Godfather), it is evident Phillips is trying to focus on the Thai setting to make us forget that infamous and unfortunate Las Vegas incident. And, kudos to Phillips, the first part of the film manages to do this. Time has passed, the boys no longer associate themselves with Alan, but he hasn’t forgotten the forging of the Wolfpack. When joining the boys on their trip, he views Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy as a threat to his status amongst the group, making way for some great snide remarks from Galifianakis, although none quite as funny as the words he has with his mother when realising his plate from lunch has not yet been cleared from his room.
Stu’s fiancée is played by Jamie Chung, but much more focus is put on Lee’s (son of Ang, don’t you know) Teddy throughout the film. Chung looks pretty and shows concern at the appropriate times with little more being required of her character. She does fare better than Doug’s wife (Barrese) and Phil’s, however, neither of who are really necessary to the film and feel a little out of place. Her brother, Teddy, is a refreshing change to the usual overly enthusiastic American teens that are portrayed onscreen. He’s a generally realistic and laidback guy who just so happens to be a child protégée at Stanford and an incredibly talented cello player.
If Teddy’s laidback, then Mr Chow (Jeong) would be his polar opposite. Completely over the top, panto and camp, in anyone else’s hands, Mr Chow would be an irritating nightmare. But Jeong is such a pleasure to watch that you simply don’t care and get completely swept up in his madness while being pursued by Paul Giamatti’s Kingsley. Always on his game, it’s an extra-special treat to see the Oscar nominated Giamatti play a villain, something he does incredibly subtly, but at the same time sending you the message you wouldn’t want to cross him. He’s also the only actor (along with Tambor) in the ensemble who is able to play in this film without being synonymous with it – Cooper is working his way towards this luxury, but is a long way behind the established Giamatti.
Part II has some fantastic moments, my favourite being a group of kids reliving the boys’ crazy night, being completely inappropriate and hilarious in equal measure. The end credits are again fantastic, getting the best audience reaction mainly due to Yasmin Lee’s shocking Kimmy. Trust me, the men in the audience won’t know whether to laugh or be sick. But it’s brilliant all the same. These moments help keep the film far less predictable than I thought. Every time you thought you’d cracked where Teddy was, another chain of events would unravel, leading you into another dark and crazy spiral that helped keep the film fast paced and exciting.
It was a real shame we never got to see Liam Neeson as the tattoo artist in the end, his other filming commitments clashing with Phillips’ reshoots. The Nick Cassavetes cameo isn’t really designed for audiences outside of America so much, leading to a British audience generally missing the point and unfortunately completely misses the mark.
The Hangover Part II is in no way an original film, but Todd Phillips has found a formula that works and you can’t blame him for sticking to it. At times I did start to feel like I’d seen it all before, but there were still just enough surprises and it isn’t an exact play-by-play like a lot of critics have made out. We have to remember that this franchise is called ‘The Hangover’, doing exactly what it says on the tin resulting in the audience pretty much knowing what they’re going to get. It’s now a billion dollar franchise. The public don’t lie.
It’s also very brave. It doesn’t just joke about dicks. It slaps you round the face with them. Yes it’s silly, yes it’s dumb, it’s not particularly intelligent, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s that wonderfully clichéd type of escapism with a script packed to the brim with in-jokes. It still leads the way and I’m actually a little excited about a third movie to wave goodbye to the Wolfpack. You know they’ll do it in style.