The Herald Bulletin

May 26, 2011

Review: 'Hangover' sequel retreads fun of predecessor

By Heather Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

— “The Hangover Part II” opened Wednesday, kicking off the long Memorial Day weekend with one raucous party.

BACKGROUND: “The Hangover Part II” is the much-anticipated followup to the 2009 smash “The Hangover.” The success of the original film was a huge surprise — its cast (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha) were hardly Hollywood heavy hitters and director Todd Phillips (“Starsky and Hutch,” “Old School”) had yet to strike box-office gold. But the combination worked, and audiences, mostly young adult males, flocked to the flick. “The Hangover,” produced on a shoestring $35 million budget, grossed $277 million domestically and $467 million worldwide, making it the top grossing R-rated comedy of all-time. A sequel was all but assured.

SYNOPSIS: It’s time to celebrate another Wolf Pack wedding, and it’s Stu (Helms) getting hitched. His lovely bride hails from Thailand, and he invites Phil, Alan and Doug (Cooper, Galifianakis and Bartha) to the overseas nuptials. But Stu isn’t about to let the debacle during Doug’s bachelor party in Las Vegas happen again. He’ll settle for one beer on the beach with friends. Alan, however, has other plans, and the Wolf Pack wakes up to find itself in a heap of trouble in Bangkok, one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY: You know those stories you tell during a night at the bar with old friends? The same stories you tell every time you get together? The ones that make you laugh and remind you of the good times you’ve shared?

That’s what “The Hangover Part II” is like. It feels like “The Hangover,” because they’re essentially the same movie. The guys wake up from a drunken night they can’t remember and have to figure out what went so horribly wrong.

But, once again, watching them stumble their way through that lost evening is so full of gut-wrenching laughs you forget you’ve done this before.

While Cooper and Galifianakis got the biggest bump from the previous film, Helms really shines in the sequel. He’s improved his screen presence and doesn’t let Stu play second fiddle to handsome Phil or bumbling Alan. Andy, his character on “The Office,” could learn a thing or two from Stu.

Ken Jeong rings up the laughs with his performance as Mr. Chow, again the impetus for the boys’ problems. It’s hard to believe someone who can so easily slip into the skin of this hard-partying international criminal is in real life a licensed doctor.

The movie, filmed in Thailand, is beautifully shot, taking advantage of its extraordinary setting. Phillips does have a real talent with the camera, and it would interesting to see what he would do with a more action-oriented script.

A word of caution for the faint of heart or more conservative moviegoers, the debauchery of the first film is definitely doubled in “The Hangover Part II.” After all, this is Bangkok ... and like Willie Scott sings in “Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom,” anything goes.

THE FINAL SCORE: Though “The Hangover Part II” breaks no new ground, it carries on the spirited depravity and comedic flourish of its predecessor. Fans of the original will enjoy another romp with the Wolf Pack.

EXTRAS: Like the first film, moviegoers are treated to snapshots of the Wolf Pack’s night of debauchery during the closing credits. This set was taken during a real night on the town in Bangkok and feature some things few could or would want to imagine are humanly possible.