The Hang-Over Part II

Here’s my new rule about comedy sequels: if at least 1/3 of the jokes are references to the original film, then there’s no real reason to see the sequel. This was the case with Meet the Fockers and American Pie 2, two movies that tried to duplicate the original films to such a degree that–when you re-watched the originals–the jokes no longer felt funny or fresh. When you heard Stifler make a “fuckface” joke or say “suck me beautiful,” you now thought, “That’s lame, dude. Move on. Get new material.”

And that’s The Hangover Part II, with its dozens of references to the “wolfpack” and “the three best friends that anyone could ever have,” throwaway jokes from the original that (like the Meet the Parents circle of trust) are now used as centerpiece gags in the sequel.

The Hangover Part II is a well-made film from a technical standpoint, the cinematography and set pieces well above the standards that we expect from a typical crude comedy, and the actors are all still engaging (they haven’t yet become caricatures of themselves, at least) but this time around, there’s no real joy in watching the plot unfold. The filmmakers are so intent in referencing the original that they actually carbon-copy the exact plot structure of the original, from the opening-scene phone call on the morning of the wedding, to the flashback where we meet bride and groom and learn about the bachelor party, to the bachelor party toast, to the jump-cut to Bradley Cooper waking up in a trashed room. There’s still a funny sense of mystery with this situation, but because the plot structure is copied, we know exactly how it will be solved; when the characters wake up in this strange place and notice that one of their own is missing, we know the steps that they will take in order to find him, and we just sort of wait for each inevitable event to play out.

In the original, the comedy was enhanced by the sudden random appearance of Mike Tyson and/or Ken Jeong’s penis, but in the sequel, it feels like an obligation to now include these elements. Not a bad movie. But this sequel sort of felt like your sophomore-year Spring Break in college, when a bunch of friends really wanted to go back to that same beach you went the year before…and now you go to the same bars and the same restaurants and the same parties, and it all just feels a little tired.

I saw The Hang-Over II in a theater that served beer, by the way, and so the crowd was absolutely pumped for the film. When the characters toasted, the audience toasted. Beer at every seat, drunk guys high-fiving. And for the first thirty minutes, the audience was with this movie; the audience was laughing; then the theater got quieter, audience members settled, and we went through a twenty-minute period where everyone seemed to stop laughing. Then everyone seemed to go to the bathroom all at once, but not in that hurried way like in a good action movie, where you run to the bathroom and run back and hope you didn’t miss anything. No: people went to the bathroom, took their time, ordered another beer, came back slowly. After all, they knew what was coming. That’s The Hangover Part II. It’s kind of fun because you’re reliving the first movie…but after a little while, you want it to do something new, to surprise you in the same way that the original surprised you. But instead, it winds up feeling tedious, forced, like the guy in your circle of friends who still goes around quoting the original Hangover long after everyone else has moved on to new comedies.

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