Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Hangover Part II

            There was something very enjoyable about the first Hangover movie.  It was one of those movies where a bunch of friends had a bunch of wacky things happen to them, and meet a bunch of wacky characters along the way, but it was very well done.  At least I believe it was.  So soon after No More Heroes made me question the first game, Hangover 2 is such a black hole of comedy that I feel like I have to double-check with people to make sure it was a good movie.  Or maybe ultimately, it was a fluke, and the sequel just proves that lightning never strikes twice.
            The movie has Stu (Ed Helms) getting married to a new woman, with the wedding happening in her family’s native country of Thailand.  He brings along Phil (Bradley Cooper) and, reluctantly, Alan (Zach Galifianikis).  Wanting to avoid all the mischief, he has a single beer with them on the beach…and they end up in the middle of Bangkok, with no memory of what happened, again, and his bride’s little brother Teddy missing, so they go in search of him.
            The biggest problem with this movie is that it’s such a case of “Where did they go wrong?”  I’m trying to analyze what went right with the first and compare it with what didn’t go right in the second.  Thus I’ve decided to comprise a list of what I think the missteps were here.  Maybe we can attribute it to just plain bad writing, or maybe it’s some of the following piling up on a movie that can’t hold itself.
1. It’s the same thing.  It’s one thing to be calling back to the earlier movie, but saying “It’s like before, but different.”  Instead, so much of it is just the same thing.  It pretty much directly copies scenes from the first, and even the pacing of the movie.  It still has that flash-forward of Phil calling the bride-to-be at the start.  It has that scene at the end where they find the photos from last night and look over them.  They even have the same reveal scene of what happened to Teddy.  I feel like it should be a USA series, where each week they wake up and don’t know where they are and have the reveal at the end of where X is.  But being this formulaic simply can’t hold up with a movie.
2. The jokes fall flat.  I think part of the problem here is that the first movie really relied on running into a bunch of wacky characters.  There’s really not that many wacky characters here, and the ones they do find aren’t really that special.  They run into a tattoo artist who’s apparently supposed to be foul-mouthed, but he says the f-word no more than any other character in the movie, so is that really the joke?  They run into a transsexual hooker, where the joke is “SHE HAS A PENIS!” and they really have nowhere to go with that.  Hell, they can’t even hold the shock factor of frontal male nudity anymore (remember when it was actually surprising for movies to do that?).  All it does is get an “Ew, penises!” reaction out of the college fratboys the movie is apparently aiming for.  I don’t know what it says that college kids were still laughing at this, but no kids were laughing during Cars 2.
And then there are the jokes that I just don’t even know if they were jokes.  With the aforementioned tattoo artist, when he first sees a tattooed Stu (which would be surprising along with the shaved-head-Alan, if they weren’t on every poster and in the trailers), he says “No refunds, now get the f**k out”.  Then one of the gang says “Look at the sign”, where the camera shows a sign saying…the same thing.  Is that funny?  Is that even a joke?  I could at least nod my head that they were trying for something during most of the movie, but what was going on here?  Alan has also seemed to go from just being a manchild to a near-psychopathic manchild.  It’s hard to laugh at anything he does when his existence is somewhere between sad and troublesome.
3. There’s no mystery.  Part of the reason the first movie worked was the mysteries.  Why is there a tiger in the room?  Why does Stu have a tooth missing?  Where’s the husband-to-be?  There was enough there that you wanted to find out the answers.  Here, the mysteries just don’t matter as much.  Why does Stu have a tattoo?  Because he got tattooed.  Like, that’s pretty much the explanation.  Why is Alan’s head shaved?  Nobody knows or cares.  I really have no idea why they even bothered shaving his head, it does nothing for the movie in the long run.
4. Flat characters.  This is something that may have been a holdover from the first movie, but it mattered less there.  It was fine that they were normal guys, but they had wacky things going on so their normality could be ignored.  Again, there’s not enough secondary characters or things to cover up themselves.  Stu and Phil are just boring.  Doug’s no longer missing, but he still shows up, and it’s obvious he was never meant to be anything other than the missing character.  Teddy shows some promise early on, but he goes missing so soon that you don’t get anything out of him.
I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something.  There were people laughing.  Was I just not getting it?  Because to me, it easily comes off as one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in a theater.  It was two long laughless hours.  There was this hope early on that it would get funnier.  At some point, I just realized that it wasn’t.  It was just going to go on and on.  They’ve already announced that they’re making a Hangover Part 3.  Please, make it stop.

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