Review: The Hangover Part II
How different do you like your sequels? Do you like seeing the same characters in entirely different situations? Or would you like to see a reprise of familiar antics but with new characters? Do the actors have to be the same? Do the characters have to have learned something and be applying their previous canon knowledge? All of these questions may come across your mind during a screening of The Hangover Part II, a film which plays out as half empty-minded fluff, half cinematic conundrum.
Many have noted and joked that The Hangover Part II is a repeat of The Hangover (part I). (Just see the Madlibs gag posted here). And while there is absolutely no denying this to be the case, before we go and bash the filmmakers for doing so, one has to consider the motivation behind making such a move. First is money. This is a big summer blockbuster release, aiming for mass appeal. There’s a reason procedural television programs like Law & Order and CSI (to name two of the most successful) find routine audiences. They’re comforting to watch; the procedure is familiar to the audience. If we critically approach The Hangover Part II in such a fashion and consider it episode two in The Hangover episodic series it goes down a little smoother.
On some level audiences want to see characters they love get into familiar hijinks. Fortunately for Part II the gags work. The characters are just as funny. Zach Galifiniakis again is a scene stealer. It works on a level in which they can build upon the original Besides, the script goes incredibly dark. So dark and taboo that one can’t help but marvel at the fact that this is still a giant, blockbuster summer release. Because had it been released any other time of year, under a different name, it would be heralded as the bleakest of dark comedy. What with all the full frontal transvestites, shootings, missing fingers, and lethal drug use. It’s almost too much at some points, where it veers from comedy into straight tragedy.
The second half of its reasoning to be a carbon copy is a bit more below the surface. Is it possible that The Hangover Part II was made as a replica of The Hangover, dare I say, on purpose? The woefully wrong title leads one to think not. “Part II” alludes to the continuation of a story - wherein characters would have some kind of development over the greater arc. Instead here they make the same mistakes and learn the same lessons. That’s not a “Part II” by any means.
But what if we imagine The Hangover as a prequel story to The Hangover II, where everything from the first film was in fact foreshadow for the larger stakes of the second film. Still not working for you? Consider actor Bryan Callen. Callen shows up in both films as two different instances of the same character. In The Hangover he plays Eddie, Las Vegas chapel owner, in Part II, he’s Samir, underworld strip club operator. In both episodes he’s a fringe character that comes into contact with the wolf pack along their journey, offering some type of guidance and hostility. It should be noted that never do the characters acknowledge that he looks familiar or say “Aren’t you the guy?” Such a casting decision is not made on accident, and for me proves the two stories are intrinsically linked and mirror images of each other for reasons other than laziness. The fact that it plays out so subtly indicates these two stories are cosmically tied on a subconscious level for these characters.
In the end I’m probably reading too deeply into what is just meant to be fleeting entertainment. (Successful fleeting entertainment though). If nothing else, the picture is surprisingly well shot for its genre. Just take a look at the image above. Thought was given to location and composition throughout, and certain scenes such as a fantasy inside Galifianakis’ mind and a series of black and white snapshots of a drug mule-ing monkey are artfully stylized. The Hangover Part II is an exercise in a different type of sequel than what we’ve come to expect as savvy modern movie goers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a total waste of time.