When The Hangover released in the summer of 2009, nobody knew what to expect from it. As it became the most talked about movie that summer, it also went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in history, surpassing Beverly Hills Cop and Wedding Crashers and ensuring a sequel be green-lit.
Two years later, that sequel released and broke all types of Memorial Day weekend records amidst negative word-of-mouth. The Hangover 2 sees The Wolfpack set out to celebrate another wedding, as Stu (Ed Helms, The Office) is getting married again, but this time to his girlfriend Lauren (Jamie Chung, The Real World: San Diego). They fly everyone out to Thailand, so Stu and Lauren can wed in the presence of her family. After an engagement dinner, the core group, plus Lauren’s younger brother Teddy (promising newcomer Mason Lee), hit the beach for a beer by a bonfire. This, of course, results in The Wolfpack waking up in a room they don’t remember being in and Teddy turning up missing. With the stakes somehow raised, as the wedding and Stu’s relationship are now in jeopardy, they set off to recap the night’s events.
If that sounds at all familiar, it’s because it is as the main problem with this sequel is that we’ve already seen this premise. This is very much a rehashed version of the first movie, set in a different location, albeit a little more raunchy. There are little-to-no surprises, as the shock humor and plot twists are far too predictable this time around, from how they got drugged to Teddy’s whereabouts and everything in between.
When The Hangover released, Bradley Cooper (Limitless) was the only “name” attached to it, as he was a familiar face who had yet to find himself a breakout role. Prior to The Hangover, Cooper found early success as a series regular on the first two seasons of Alias and followed that up with a support role in Wedding Crashers and a failed attempt to be lead actor on the unjustly cancelled Fox sitcom, Kitchen Confidential. He then attached himself to support roles in a series of critically-panned chick flicks and romantic comedies (which are, in fact, two different genres), and this franchise was to be remembered as his breakout role in a blockbuster comedy. Instead it became the movie that made Galifinakis and Ken Jeong (Community) famous, as well as opening the door for the post-boxing career resurgence of Mike Tyson.
Galifinakis, rather than Cooper, was considered as the breakout performance in the first film, and the actor has certainly rode that wave of success in the two years since. He’s gone on to play the same role in Dinner For Schmucks, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Due Date prior to returning for The Hangover 2. What was refreshing about Alan’s character originally was that he was such an unpredictable oddball. That is no longer the case here.
Likewise, Helms as Stu offers more of the same. He remains the neurotic straight man who will ultimately set out to do the most outlandish and bizarre acts once intoxicated. Only now, rather than pull a tooth out, he’s tattooed his face ala Tyson, and rather than wed a stripper who has a baby, he has sex with a stripper who has a… Yeah, we won’t go there.
Cooper, on the other hand, shines as Phil, the character foil to Stu if there ever was one, in what is among the movie’s very few bright spots. Much to his credit as an actor, Cooper has proven that he can take an ordinary line of dialog and deliver it in a way that makes it funnier and more meaningful than it ever should have been.
Overall, The Hangover 2 had its funny moments, but those moments were too few and far between. The majority of the jokes fell flat, and the shock humor was more unsettling than funny. This case of sequelitis is very reminiscent of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, although with less charming leads and, somehow, less funny. Does this mean the next Hangover will feature an egg-nog induced holiday-theme?