***** (Spectacular) 10

****1/2 (Excellent) 9

**** (Very Good) 8

***1/2 (Good) 7

*** (Above Average) 6

**1/2 (Average) 5

** (Below Average) 4

*1/2 (Mediocre) 3

* (Awful) 2

1/2 (Abysmal) 1

0 (Worthless) 0

Sunday, July 3, 2011

# 368 - THE HANGOVER PART II (2011)

THE HANGOVER PART II (2011 - COMEDY) ***½ out of *****

(Boys, boys, boys, are you ever going to fucking learn?)

Here we go again…

CAST: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifanakis, Justin Bartha, Jaime Chung, Sasha Barrese, Ken Jeong.

DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips

WARNING: Some rather unfortunate cases of history repeating itself - straight ahead…

Recently, one of my friends whom we have referred to in the past as “Liam Neeson” because of his resemblance to said actor, called me and asked if I wanted to do the “dinner-and-a-movie” thing. The flick he had in mind was THE HANGOVER PART II. The first thing I asked “Liam” was “Have you seen THE HANGOVER PART I?” His response: “No.” My response: silence.

What I was quietly mulling over is whether his not seeing the first film would impair his understanding of the second one. Then I realized THE HANGOVER PART II is essentially THE HANGOVER PART I - but set in Bangkok. And Thailand just happens to be “Liam’s” most favorite country in the whole world. I knew that was his prime reason for wanting to see the movie. Can’t say I blame him, though, because I do the same with movies set in Italy: no matter how bad they may be, at least I know I’ll be looking at some serious eye candy, both in terms of people and geography.

In other words, all “Liam” needed was cursory (very cursory) description of the first film to set the stage for the second one. And that description goes a little something like this: “Four lovable dipshits head on down to Vegas for a Bachelor’s party - only to wake up the next morning with no memory of the night before, and the discovery that the groom is missing. Now they must race against time to reconstruct what happened and save the wedding.”

Essentially, this is the same plot breakdown for THE HANGOVER PART II, except the setting is Bangkok, Thailand. Our quartet of lovable dipshits from the THE HANGOVER are back and even more lovable (and dipshitty) than before. They are: (1) Phil (Bradley Cooper), hunky ringleader of the group; (2) Doug (Justin Bartha), mild-mannered peacekeeper of the group who was the missing groom the last time around; (3) Alan (Zach Galifanakis), bizarro extraordinaire of the group; and (4) Stu, primo whiner of the group who is also the groom this time around. His bride-to-be is the lovely, exotic Lauren (Jaime Chung), a Thai-American chick who is about to make an honest man out of Stu. Or try to, anyway.

Anyhow, the wedding is going to be on one of Thailand’s offshore islands. A couple days before the nuptials, though, our boys decide to have a drink on the beach which includes Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren’s nerdy little brother who could use a little adventure in his life. Needless to say, you don’t have to have seen the first movie to surmise that this “harmless” drink on the beach is going to lead to some rather fucked-up stuff.

Sure enough, the next morning Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up in a dingy (really dingy) flat in Bangkok. Needless to say, this is quite the step down from the luxury suite that they came to in during the first movie. The good news is, unlike last time, there is no Bengal tiger lurking in the bathroom. Nor does Stu have a tooth missing. The bad news? There’s a monkey jumping around the room like he mainlined a cocktail of crack, blow, heroine, and a triple-Venti espresso. And let me just say that when you’re nursing a hangover that NASA could detect from space, the last thing you need is a monkey ricocheting around the room.

Oh, and further bad news? While Stu may not be missing any teeth, he does have a rather… interesting… tatoo around his left eye. And doesn’t remember how it got there. Personally, I thought the tatoo made Stu look sexy as fuck, and made me consider whether I would tell Phil to take a hike and choose him for a fuck buddy instead. Unfortunately, Stu doesn’t think the tattoo is all that hot, and freaks the hell out. I guess it doesn’t go with the tux he’ll be wearing at the altar.

Oh, and even further bad new? Teddy, Stu’s future brother-in-law, is missing. If you thought Stu was having a mega-conniption fit over the tattoo, imagine his reaction to the discovery that he’s lost his bride-to-be’s baby brother. If that’s not a sure way to not get any nookie on your honeymoon, I don’t know what is…

So… once again into the breach our boys go, trying to piece together what the hell happened the night before? What kind of clues do they have this time around? The monkey on crack? The sexy-as-fuck tattoo on Stu’s face? What role does a monastery outside Bangkok have to do with their crazy allnighter? What about a mysterious American wheeler-dealer named Kingsley? What happens when that mega-dork Chou (Ken Jeong) from the first movie turns up in Bangkok? Will he help our boys? Or throw them under the bus? And the most important question of all: why does Stu’s ass keep hurting? What happened to him the night before? Ahem?

Find out for yourselves, bitches. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

BUT, SERIOUSLY: There are some contingents that think very lowly of THE HANGOVER PART II. They state that this film doesn’t do anything to try to differ from the first movie. Instead, they say, it recycles all the elements of the previous adventure and tweaks them a little without offering anything truly new.

They are right. However, that’s as far as I agree with them. While THE HANGOVER PART II truly does copy the template of THE HANGOVER with some alterations here and there, it is essentially the same film as the first one. Why, then, does it rate fairly high (***½, good) in my book? For two reasons: (1) the characters are as likable as the first time around, and (2) the movie is hilarious as all get out.

THE HANGOVER is a modern comedy classic that caught lightning in a bottle. It took a concept that is universally relatable, and mined it for endless comic gold. Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly tap into the mother lode of yuks any more, THE HANGOVER constantly surprised you by pulling more tricks out of its hat. That is the sign of a well-written script.

THE HANGOVER PART II suffers a little from two things: (1) a less elegant set-up than the first one, and (2) a sense of familiarity because it’s following in the steps of its trailblazing predecessor. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, the movie is so funny and its characters are so engaging that we’re too busy laughing to mind too much. At least I was.

Bradley Cooper once again turns Phil into a nice mix of level-headed charm and no-nonsense directness, easily showing why the character is the leader of the group. He keeps it together for everyone by knowing when to be calm and mellow, and when to be a stone-cold asshole. Justin Bartha is once again the voice-of-reason of the group as Doug, who doesn’t get to go on the adventure this time around, but acts as sort of a “mission control” for the boys back at the island. Zach Galifanakis as Alan is once again a loony delight. This time around, though, he’s not the funniest character walking around. That would be Chou, whom Ken Jeong brings to life with unapologetic political-incorrectness. The guy is a genius comedian. He nails the movie’s biggest laughs, and is easily THE HANGOVER PART II’s MVP.

Finally, Ed Helms gets some good screen time as Stu, the shy dentist who finds his inner backbone and surprises everyone with it. Just as in the first movie, Helms manages to be both attractive and dorky at the same time, and it suits the character of Stu very well. And that tattoo looks damn hot on him. There’s no way I’d ask for him to remove it. In supporting roles, Mason Lee, Jaime Chung, and Sasha Barrese are all solid and memorable. Barrese, in particular, is great mix of exasperation and strength. Watch the scene at the very beginning where Phil calls her and says “Tracy, it happened again…” Her reaction is priceless…

So… bottom line: THE HANGOVER PART II may not be quite as fresh or great as the first movie, but it is definitely a good flick worthy of your attention. See it now. But watch out for those Thai go-go girls. You’ll see….