I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sum up a review as succinctly as I can sum up this one; If you liked The Hangover, you’ll like The Hangover 2.
Why is this? Because Todd Phillips and his cronies have basically remade the first movie. Sure, the setting is different and a few characters are swapped out for different (but similar) characters, but every situation, every twist, and every beat is substituted with a new joke, gag, or scenario that functions for the plot and characters in exactly the same way as something in the original.
And ya know what? For this movie, that’s a good thing. In fact, it makes the film funnier.
Because instead of trying to “reinvent” the franchise (I’m looking at you, Pirates 4) or making the plot, characters and situations even more goofy and ridiculous than the admittedly ridiculous original (I’m looking at you Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), this film just says “We did it well. We got it right. Let’s do it again.”
And that makes the entire movie one huge in-joke. From the first frame, where we see a concerned wedding party interrupted by a phone call breaking bad news, we get the joke. And when Wolf-Pack member Phil says “It happened again,” you can’t help but laugh out loud. The idea of the exact same thing, of this proportion of silliness, happening twice is almost interesting enough to carry the movie all by itself.
Phillips does do a few things differently…kinda. Yes, the story structure and character dynamics are identical (and I do mean identical), but the movie is still clever with its jokes and uses its change of scenery (the gang is shanghaied in Bangkok this time) for the better. The whole thing feels somehow darker, seedier and more desperate this time around. Lives are at stake (kinda), and we’re treated to severed fingers, bullet wounds, drug overdoses and a violent monkey. It’s pretty creepy stuff, really, but somehow that just makes it all the more enjoyable.
Walking into this film, my one thought was “They’re going to be trying too hard.” It’s a common thing in comedy sequels to try and recycle jokes and characters and pat yourself on the back saying “Hey, remember that first movie? Wasn’t that funny!” Luckily enough, the filmmakers seem to know what’s fair game to copy and what needs to be original. Instead of cramming a whole slew of call-back jokes, the movie copies the structure, pacing and plot of the original…you know, the obligatory comedy stuff that is hard to get right and can stand to be recycled. Mix in some original jokes and outrageous situations, and you’re good to go. Effortless.
There is one exception, though. A cameo by Mike Tyson feels tired, forced, and thrown in just…because.
Still, it’s a slight misstep in a movie that knows what it is, how it functions, and what it needs to do to get its target audience laughing. In short, you already know how you’re going to feel about this movie. Act accordingly.