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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  'Hangover' hangover
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Thursday, June 2,2011

'Hangover' hangover

By Michael Phillips

 

For some movies, seeming funny is enough. The Hangover Part II only has to show up to succeed. At once pushy and lazy, the sequel follows the 2009 smash, which has become the most lucrative R-rated comedy in history. Isn’t that depressing? I find that depressing.

Hangover II substitutes Bangkok for Las Vegas, and otherwise follows the templates laid out by director Todd Phillips in the original with a ruthless lack of creativity. I laughed maybe twice, though as with the first one (which I didn’t like, either — clearly I have Hangover issues), Ed Helms’ put-upon dentist Stu, here getting married to a Thai-American woman ( Jamie Chung) in her family’s native land, is the sole source of good will compensating for the script’s permeating smugness.

Why can’t I get on board with these movies, which strive simply for a rollicking, disreputable good time? Too many women enjoyed the first one to write off the phenomenon as a guy thing. I’d say it’s more of a comedy thing.

Phillips — whose previous picture, Due Date, helped to further the mysterious bankability of Zach Galifianakis — favors a rough edge, a mean streak and a vaguely putrid visual style in his tales of badly behaving men. Pushing comic scenarios into offensive and risky territory (a la Borat, co-written by Phillips, which I love) can pay significant dividends in the right hands. The envelope-pushing stuff in Hangover II, however, made me want to push back.

Again, a night of extreme debauchery leaves the lads clueless and foggy-brained, unable to recall anything without photographic evidence saved for the end credits. Bradley Cooper returns as Phil, the “cool” one who rarely takes off his sunglasses, and while Cooper has talent, I find his character in these Hangovers to be a jerk. Nothing more. The vaguely pederastic screwball played by Galifianakis, same thing.

Once again we have the “wake-up scene,” which reveals the boys/men in a hotel room somewhere in Bangkok. Once again we have a missing person: It’s Helms’ future brother-in-law (Mason Lee), whom the lads must locate in time for the wedding. Once again, the cackling Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong, whose privates come in once again for sight gaggery) and his underworld comrades provide a bit of plot for those who need a bit of plot.

Whatever. I need jokes. Something more than a situation recycling the situation in the first one. I’d like filmmakers who, worldwide grosses aside, show more of an interest in filming visual comedy — gross-out, violent, action-based, whatever — with some finesse. The other day someone said to me, “Well, you know, Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Hangover, it’s all the same.” No, it isn’t! No, it isn’t. The best of Judd Apatow’s guy-centric comedies take care of business (i.e., they’re witty) in addition to taking care of business. Hangover II is more like a spitball meeting, a series of ideas that might, in theory, be good enough for a sequel, than it is an actual movie.

—MCT, Tribune Media Service Respond:letters@boulderweekly.com

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