MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
The first Hangover was perfectly aware that it was jumping the shark. It felt skilled, practiced and aware of what it takes to shark jump and it landed neatly over the tail. The only way to follow up this stunt is to do it again, but blindfolded. Put another way, the first Hangover tried to be so absurd, it was good. It might have been an outrageous stunt, but it was aware of what it was doing. The second Hangover doesn’t care how awful the outcome might be, as long as it’s allowed to shark jump again. The result no longer matters, as long as the ludicrousness is clear. As guilty as it might make you feel, there’s something about the spectacle of shark jumping that feels rather captivating.
I was a fan of the first Hangover. I was devoid of any expectations and I couldn’t help but enjoy its silliness. As anyone who’s seen the trailer for the sequel will realise: they’re just pulling the same trick again. No pretensions, no ingenuity, no fuss. People know what to expect, people like these characters, let’s move the situation from Vegas to Thailand and give them another hundred minutes. But anyone following the film’s development will know it’s just hardly been starightforward, whether through casting backlashes, stuntman catastrophes or tattooed lawsuits. But at the other end of all this, what’s been made is something simple, formulaic and meets every expectation of ridiculousness. It’s unashamedly self-referential to its previous installment but it attracts an audience who expects just that. If the sequel was drawn on tracing paper it would fit quite nicely over its original. Its audience want alcoholic fueled forgetfulness involving Stu, the geeky, distressed and drunkenly unfaithful dentist (Ed Helms), Phil, the cool, audacious, school teacher (Bradley Cooper) and Alan, the emotional, childish, camp tag-along (Zach Galifianakis). “We did it again” says an anguished Phil on the phone to Stu’s fiance at the beginning of the movie as he tries to account for whatever appalling situation they have got themselves into. The joke is in the absurdity of the repetition. It knows it’s a sequel devoid of new ideas and underneath all the grotesque lavishness, that’s what works well and gives it its charm.
The ‘shock’ of the film obviously goes over the line on numerous occasions. Is it funny to give a severely injured monkey a cigarette? Oh wait, we’re in Thailand – you’ve got to include that joke about the transsexual. But don’t stop there – let’s see everything! It’s shocking and I must say I found a lot of it pretty distasteful but then again, I expected nothing less. It is rampant and without any ambitions of dignity. But in a terrible way, wondering how I was going to be shocked or offended next amidst chaos and frenetic farce is actually quite a pleasure. Except you know exactly what’s going to happen next. You now the formula and you know it will probably all be resolved, but you never quite know how they will make that jump even more outrageous.
It does have some good jokes too, but it’s just a shame so many moments were ruined by the trailer as so often is the case with comedies. The ending has considerable problems. You can almost see Todd Phillips crossing off the days from his calender as he rushes to get it in front of the studio. There’s a delicate line between ridiculous situations that obviously require a bit of suspended disbelief and characters with serious problems they just ignore. I won’t say much more, but there are some injuries which you can’t just laugh through and some scars that might shock a loved one. I won’t say it patronizes its audience’s intelligence, as that would be ridiculous given the silliness that comes 90 minutes before, but it’s simply bad writing. It’s very much a slap dash, ‘hurry up and get it done’ ending. And not to mention the most unnecessary, sellotaped cameo in the history of comedy right at the end.
If you didn’t like the first Hangover, you probably don’t need to be told not to see the second. If you didn’t see the first Hangover, do no let anyone drag you to see this. You won’t understand why people are laughing at moments that reflect or parody the first film and that accounts for a good chunk of the gags. But if you enjoyed the first Hangover, chances are you will get plenty of joy out of this. It might reject all the rules of good cinema, but for some reason it’s that slow-motion, horrific jump over the shark that keeps your eyes wide open.
The Hangover: Part Two is out now in the UK and US. Running time: 102 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review By David Rank