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The Hangover: Part II

May 26, 2011
The Hangover: Part II

The Wolf Pack is back. How do you follow up on The Hangover — the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time? Can you even follow up on The Hangover. Maybe you can’t beat a heavyweight like that, but Todd Phillips comes back swinging with The Hangover: Part II, and more than a few of his punches land.

The basic outline is pretty much the same. This time the groom is Stu (Ed Helms), who has evidently shaken off his drunken elopement with Heather Graham from last time. His friends Doug (Justin Bartha) — the groom the last time around — and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are in the wedding of course, and Doug’s wife convinces them to invite along her brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis) again.

Now, obviously it would be too repetitious to go back to Las Vegas — the guys are probably banned from the whole city anyway — but where else can you find such a wretched hive of scum and villainy? Bangkok. And luckily Stu’s fiancée’s family is from Thailand, and they insist on having the wedding at a resort somewhere near Songkhla.

Stu is understandably wary and insists on no bachelor party. Phil is upset, but finagles a bonfire on the beach with one beer — American, and sealed to prevent tampering — each. Stu’s fiancée sends along her brother Teddy (Mason Lee), a 16-year-old Stanford pre-med student who “never gets to have any fun”, in her words.

Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up the next morning somewhere in Bangkok, in a room that makes Joe’s Apartment look well-kept. Alan’s hair has been shaved off; Stu has all his teeth, but also has Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo. Doug and Teddy are nowhere to be found, though there is a finger with a Stanford ring wrapped in a bloody towel, floating in a bowl of water. Oh, and there’s a very oddly-trained monkey.

Luckily, the phone rings and they learn that Doug left the group early on the beach and has no idea what has happened, but this still leaves Teddy unaccounted for, missing somewhere in Bangkok. So the Wolf Pack take off on a desperate search across the city, just as they did for Doug, trying to piece together just what happened the previous night, and where Teddy might be. Some of the major points from The Hangover are echoed in this sequel, but they’re never quite a retread of the original. And of course there’s an effort to push the envelope and go even further over the top, but it still never quite becomes too offensive.

Part of the credit goes to writer/director Todd Phillips, who has a much defter touch with edgy humor than, say, the Farrelly brothers. The guys are certainly put-upon, and even embarassed, but they’re never really humiliated. They endure their outrageous tribulations with, indeed, a certain stoic nobility. I find myself urged to sympathize with their plight rather than to ridicule them with smug superiority. These may be schmucks, but they’re enormously fun schmucks. And as scary as the prospect may seem, there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind being along for the ride.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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