Naked transvestite hookers, a smoking monkey, a sliced-off finger, a monkey eating said sliced-off finger, pubic hair, a bleeding facial tattoo, a cuddly toy. No, it’s not the Generation Game. It’s the much anticipated sequel to 2009’s overwhelmingly successful (and dare I say overrated) The Hangover.
If I were more forward thinking last Wednesday night I could’ve gotten hideously drunk and could now be writing something akin to ‘I’m a method reviewer, I went to watch The Hangover with a hangover’ – cue a distinct lack of laughter and a smug grin on my face that even writer/director Todd Phillips couldn’t remove. Alas, I think I’ll stick to the joke that it’s probably more productive to sleep this one off.
The plot is clearly stamped with Todd Phillips’ ‘if it grosses $467 million then don’t fix it’ seal of fiscally-grounded approval, because everything is pretty much the same as before. This time, however, we are in Thailand, which means that everyone is either a Buddhist or a ladyboy. If there is one thing that this movie teaches us (which there isn’t), it’s that spirituality and sex tourism are the twin pillars of Far- Eastern society and never the twain shall meet. You get one or the other, which means a lot of episodic taxiing around from set piece to set piece, and possibly a slew of complaints from the Thai tourist board.
Some of these set pieces, such as the car chase through the middle of Bangkok, are nevertheless surprisingly well-handled. Phillips, in spite of his lack of writing talent, is actually a very competent and stylish director. The script, on the other hand, is somewhat overly dependent on two caricatures of varying quality for its laughs. Ken Jeong’s Mr Chow is just as terrible as before with his faux-gangsta schtick and all too frequently revealed (and oddly full-bodied) pubic hair making me want to schtick pins in my eyes on a regular basis. He and Zach Galifianakis’ Alan are as heavy-handed as ever, but at least Galifianakis gets some laughs. That his character just comes off as a thinking man’s Simple Jack isn’t enough though, as evidenced by the unsurprisingly chuckle-free screening I went to.
The Hangover II definitely needs some ill-gotten laughs to validate all of its crassness. There are no existential epiphanies to be found here but there’s no comedy either, and when something is as derivative, loud and brash as this, that’s a fatal problem.