Here’s some trivia for you movie fans. In 1977 movie theatre owners did not want to play “Star Wars.” From what they heard it was a kiddie film that would do no business. What the theatre owners wanted was what they thought was THE big film from 20th Century Fox that year, a film called “The Other Side of Midnight.” Based on a popular novel and boasting a great cast, the studio felt the film would be the big movie for them. They were so certain that “The Other Side of Midnight” was going to be a hit that they held the theatre owner’s feet to the fire. If you want to play “Midnight,” they told them, than you have to agree to play “Star Wars.” Theatre owners reluctantly agreed. Of course, most of them held on to “Star Wars” for so long that they didn’t even play “The Other Side of Midnight.” True story. So is the fact that “The Godfather” was supposed to be made quickly and cheaply so it could capitalize on the book’s popularity for a few weeks and disappear. I bring these films up because the story is also applicable to “The Hangover.” The studio was looking for a summer comedy that would make a little money. What they got was a film that earned over $275 million in the United States and became the highest grossing “R” rated comedy of all time. I also thought it should have made the list of 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees that year. Which means, like the other films I mentioned, that expectations are pretty big for the sequel. And those expectations are met in spades!
A cell phone rings. On the other end is Phil (Cooper). As the phone is answered all Phil can mutter is “it happened again!” It certainly did. “The Hangover II” is the story of what happens to the Wolfpack when they travel to Thailand to attend the wedding of their friend Stu (Helms). Also along for the ceremony are Alan (Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha, who spent the majority of the first film off screen). When it is suggested that the gang, accompanied by Stu’s fiancé’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee), go out for just one drink you know things aren’t going to end well. But getting to the end is part of the fun of “The Hangover Part II.” The Wolfpack slip easily into their roles, not missing a beat. Cooper is the handsome one, Helms the overly-nervous one and Galifianakis is…well, Galifianakis. When the boys wake up after their “one” beer and find themselves in a seedy motel in Bangkok they think things can’t get any worse. At least until they discover themselves in the company of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), their nemesis from the first film. The jokes get funnier and funnier while the boys search the city for Teddy (who they’ve apparently misplaced) and find themselves dealing with gangsters, bad cab drivers and a cigarette smoking monkey. The laughs come fast and furious, as does the boy’s horror every time a search for Teddy ends in the words “Bangkok has him.”
The script, by Scot Armstrong (“Old School,” “Starsky and Hutch) and Craig Mazin (“Rocketman”) is outstanding, with the laughs coming so frequently that I’m going to have to see the film a second time just to hear what I missed because the audience was laughing so loud, which is truly the sign of a great comedy. In fact, if the first film was “The Godfather” of comedies I’d have to call this once “The Godfather Part II.”