BY: Manori Ravindran
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis. Directed by Todd Phillips. 102 minutes. R
You know that dismal feeling when you’re watching a film, and everything seems so… familiar? You know all the punch lines, can predict every plot twist, and once-interesting characters are about as engaging as wet paint. Fans of The Hangover will likely experience this very melancholia after the second instalment of Todd Phillips’s burgeoning franchise, which is little more than a tired carbon copy of its predecessor.
This time around, it’s Stu (Ed Helms) who’s getting married, and the destination wedding takes the boys to Thailand. The hesitant groom—still peeved about getting roofied by Alan (Zach Galifianakis) in Las Vegas—refuses to have a bachelor party, instead opting for one ocean-side drink before the wedding.
In true form, the Wolf Pack wakes up the next morning in a dingy Bangkok hotel room with—surprise, surprise—absolutely no recollection of last night’s debauchery. This time, they’ve lost the bride-to-be’s little brother (save for his decapitated finger—yuck!), and Stu’s not getting married until they find him. The remainder of the film can be summed up in three pertinent quotes: “It’s happened again!” “Alan, what did you do?!” and “Bangkok has him now.”
Jamie Chung as Stu’s fiancée and Paul Giamatti as a hot-tempered mob leader provide some new faces, but there’s little else that’s fresh about The Hangover Part II except the locale. Car chases, hospital visits, an illicit rendezvous with a stripper: everything fans may have relished in the first film is reharvested with zero toppers. It’s as if the entire experience is catered towards moviegoers who don’t mind watching the same film multiple times. For the rest of us, it’s déjà-vu.
There is one difference between the two films, though, and it makes Part II even more unsavoury. The latter exoticizes both Bangkok and southeast Asians, treating them as the foreigners deviating from North American norms. Considering Stu, Phil and Alan are tourists visiting Thailand, the disrespect these characters have for the culture is astounding.
Upon entering a Buddhist monastery, Alan asks, “What is this, a P. F. Chang’s?” (referencing a Chinese restaurant chain in the U.S.) while Phil calls the monks a “bunch of bald assholes.” Meanwhile, Bangkok’s sex industry, poverty and drug trafficking are the only focuses throughout the film—issues which are treated with as much sensitivity as a doormat.
The Hangover Part II has grossed nearly $187-million in the two weeks that it’s been out, practically guaranteeing a third dose of unfunny in God-knows-where-next. And if the box office is any indication, it’s possible the bankable Wolf Pack—racist or not—will score big again next time. But whether the more selective will stick around for another course of “reuse, reduce, recycle” filmmaking isn’t such a sure bet. B-