The hook that makes The Hangover Part II work is its controlled absurdity. Not only are the characters completely over the top – and just plain weird at times – but the situations they find themselves in defy credulity. Whether or not specific viewers will find this brand of comedy funny – some of the gags are more shocking than humorous – it’s difficult to deny the craftsmanship of the film. Beyond the absurdity is wonderful production value, excellent acting and a fully realized story.
Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married and the ceremony is going to be held in Thailand, so he invites his best pals, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha), to be part of the ceremony. Unfortunately, he also gets cajoled into inviting the socially maladroit Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who seems upset that the bride’s little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is tagging along with the guys on their last night out before the wedding. What was supposed to be a quiet, low-key evening, drinking one beer and roasting marshmallows turns into a wild night that none of the guys can remember in the morning, forcing them to piece together events from their current state. Complicating matters is the fact that Teddy is missing except for his finger. It’s a race against the clock as the guys wander Bangkok, mingling with drug dealers, prostitutes and animals, retracing their steps to locate Teddy before he’s lost for good.
The comedy in The Hangover Part II is all over the place, ensuring that everyone laughs at least once. As such, this is a film that best enjoyed with a crowd of people with diverse tastes. Patches of the dialogue are snappy for those who enjoy verbal duels, there’s plenty of slapstick and some of the characters are so flamboyantly weird they can’t help but be funny. There are, however, a few gags that are pure shock value. One particular shock has been done many times before, but The Hangover Part II handles it less tastefully and will elicit more grimaces than chortles. That aside, there are other more subdued comedic moments that help balance the craziness, like when Alan plays a small prank with a monk to lighten the mood on a public bus or when Stu sings Billy Joel’s “Allentown” with new lyrics, blaming Alan for his current predicament. These scenes will definitely surprise, but may also disappoint some audiences who are expecting non-stop hilarity. It’s worth noting, however, that since a large portion of the comedy hinges on discovery, The Hangover Part II definitely loses its appeal for repeat viewings.
The charm of the film is that while it’s definitely a comedy, it feels like a thriller with a matching production value. It’s difficult to think of another comedy that has as many varied locations, ranging from an innocuous American IHOP to a gritty tattoo parlor in Bangkok. Also, the world of the film is fully realized, with the citizenry of Bangkok going about their business as the characters bumble around, getting into their next scrape. The Hangover Part II feels extraordinarily big for a comedy.
This movie is fun and hits all the points it needs to in order to be successful. There are a few flaws, however, that detract from the experience. While the actors all perform very well, their characters aren’t that likeable. Alan is strange and annoying. Phil is kind of a jerk, even to his friends. Overall, the group seems to deserve whatever happens to them. Also, some of the two-second bits are belabored over minutes, destroying whatever comedic value they had. Finally, it would have been nice if more of the characters’ circumstances had a reason behind them rather than simply being part of drunken revelry.
The Hangover Part II will probably be one of the best comedies of the year and one of the most popular as word of mouth gets more people in seats if only for cheap thrills. More serious moviegoers will appreciate the craftsmanship of the film, including a great story, excellent cast and beautiful set pieces. Just make sure to watch the movie with a young crowd to properly set the mood and expectations.