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The Cynical Optimist walks away from Hangover 2 sober

The Cynical Optimist walks away from Hangover 2 sober

Directed by Todd Phillips, ”The Hangover Part II” picks up a two years after the wolf pack’s escapades in Las Vegas. Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to Thailand for Stu’s wedding (Ed Helms), who has found the love of his life in Lauren (Jamie Chung).

This time around, Stu has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch, much to Phil’s chagrin. Things do not go as planned, however, after the wolf pack loses the 16-year-old brother of Stu’s fiancée and wake up in Bangkok with no recollection of the previous night’s events.

No doubt one of the most anticipated films of the summer, ”The Hangover Part II” attempts to out-do itself on every level, but succeeds only on a few. While the film isn’t as hysterical as its predecessor, Part II follows the Jackass model of escalating vulgarity and absurdity for shock value.

Visually speaking, Todd Phillips is an exciting director. The guy has a knack for seamlessly crafting sequences that serve as a perfect marriage of moving image and sound. In ”Part II” particularly, Phillips combines broad, stirring images of exotic Thailand backdrops with the music of Danzig and Kanye West to create epic, sweeping moments amidst the chaos.

In terms of story, however, there isn’t a lot of new territory to explore in this sequel – which feels less like Part II and more like a remake of the first film. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable, the film certainly has its moments – but it feels less like a natural progression of plot and character and more like a gauntlet of horrifying ordeals the wolf pack must endure in order to make it to the inevitable third film.

The tone of the film is darker, which would be intriguing if only it was taken seriously. Instead of missing teeth and severe sunburns, our fellowship of groomsmen endure gunshot wounds, severed fingers and flirt with drug overdoses – but there’s never a moment given to let the weight of these horrific experiences sink in.

Phillips’ idea of character development is pretty straight-forward. Alan is even weirder and more awkward than before – which results is some of his jokes hitting the mark, while most of them miss completely. Instead of losing a tooth and marrying a whore, Stu gets a face tattoo and has sex with a transvestite stripper.

And that’s basically the premise of ”Part II” – let’s see how far we can push it before audiences say, “enough.” Instead of earning a laugh, Phillips aims to beat it out of us. It’s as if full frontal male nudity and harsh language were submission holds – forcing us to tap out after unsuccessful attempts to squirm free of his frat boy brashness.

I didn’t dislike ”The Hangover Part II”, but it certainly wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the original. It is essentially the same movie you saw in 2009, just substitute a smoking monkey for baby Carlos and a transvestite stripper for Heather Graham – considerable downgrades if you ask me.

It will be interesting to see where the series goes from here. I have no doubt there will be a third film – as everything is envisioned as a trilogy these days – but I wonder how Phillips will attempt to out-do ”Part II”.

I think it’s time for Phil to undergo a crisis of some sort. Maybe he’ll get divorced – a personal tragedy that would no doubt effect Alan, who has a total man crush on Bradley Cooper’s character. Or maybe they’ll all just go on a ”European vacation” like the Griswold family.

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