Monday, 19 December 2011

Film Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong,
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis

Do you remember The Hangover from 2009? The surprise smash-hit where four friends go to Vegas for a stag-do, only to wake up the next day not remembering a thing? It was fresh, fast-paced, original, and most of all funny. Because that’s what a comedy is supposed to be.

It appears that, alongside the 2009 release, director Todd Phillips conducted an experiment - “What if we made the same film but set it outside of the States, and made it darker, nastier, more vulgar, and without any laughs after the opening 15 minutes? Would anyone want to see that film? No, of course they wouldn’t! I’ll just release this Vegas-set comedy because even I know it’s the better of the two versions…”

Fast forward two years and 467 million dollars in box-office takings later, and Warner Bros have released this alternate version in cinemas. Yes, the exact same film, but just the version no one would have paid to see back in 2009.

Of course, I joke. But believe me when I say my little parody above is hysterical compared to The Hangover Part II. Essentially Part II is a carbon copy of the first, minus anything that was remotely enjoyable. And the original film was by no means a comedy masterpiece either - it was simply far better than we expected.

It is a sad indictment on the film industry that those 467 million dollars lead to this abysmal piece of trash. All the money the first film made for producers and film makers, and this is the best they can do. Did anyone even want to see a follow-up to The Hangover anyway? Wasn’t it enough to have the four friends wrap up their little adventure and let it be? Why has Phillips put us through the misery (and it really is a miserable, pathetic excuse for a comedy) of seeing this new sordid, hateful little film when, at the very least, he could have attempted to do something original with the characters - even if no one actually wanted to see or hear from them again.

As I predicted, the jokes all come through Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) stupidity and idiocy. Two years ago, that was quite funny because he was slightly lovable in a weird way; but now his character is just as dull and lifeless and all the others. In all good sequels the characters must have evolved and changed from the last time you saw them - in this film they have all regressed.

Phil (Bradley Cooper) might not have even have bothered making the trip to Bangkok as he adds nothing to the story and has nothing funny to say. Doug, the friend at the centre of the first film’s storyline, doesn’t even get involved in the story other than to answer a phone now and then. Mr Chow, the scene-stealer of 2009, is reduced to a mere bit-part and a terrible sub-plot involving the police, presumably just to get a ‘cool’ helicopter shot in the picture. Totaly out of place and needless.

But worst of all is the writing of Stu’s character (played by Ed Helms). In the first film, he was repressed, emasculated, and living in fear of his fiance. THAT is the reason why he went out of control and married a stripper - the night out in Vegas allowed him to do everything and anything he wasn’t able to in his homelife. The character had his arc and evolved from beginning to end.

So why now, in this film, does he risk everything on the eve of his wedding when he’s never been happier? He doesn’t want a stag-do and makes it abundantly clear. Even Phil, the party man, doesn’t seem too bothered by the fact once they get to Bangkok. What is the motivation for the drinking and subsequent ‘hangover’ for this film? Why does anything happen in this film?

If I can see that, why couldn’t the writers? Do I know their characters better than they do? Do we, the paying audience, have a better basic grasp of storytelling than these guys?

Sadly this doesn’t matter, as this dire film has taken close to $120 million in its first four days in the US. And apparently, that’s all that matters. I could go on and on tearing this film apart, but hopefully you get the picture.

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