'Hangover Part Two' is more remake than sequel
"The Hangover" didn't become the most successful R-rated movie of all time just by being funny.
To earn that kind of windfall ($467 million), you also have to be in the right place at the right time - with the right joke.
You have to be jacked into the public consciousness in a big way, and "The Hangover" certainly was. The whole country had a hangover in 2009, the tail end of one of the great binge decades in U.S. history.
And we all woke up, like poor Stu, with a missing tooth, in a room we couldn't afford, holding a maxed-out credit card and only a foggy memory of how we got there.
All we knew was that we'd trashed the place, and were in for it. That's what made "The Hangover" so markedly different from most dudes-gone-wild/bachelor-party movies - it wasn't about debauchery, but punishment.
The fabled wolf pack (Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper) was punched by Mike Tyson, beaten by a tire iron, rammed by an SUV, tasered by schoolkids, raked by a tiger and burned to a crisp on the roof of a hotel.
There is more Reformation-style suffering for the wolf pack in "The Hangover Part II," really more of a rehash than a sequel.
This time the groom is Stu (Helms), and he's so traumatized by what happened in Vegas that he refuses to have a bachelor party on the eve of his wedding to a gorgeous Thai patrician woman on the outskirts of Bangkok.
He consents to a brief fireside toast, leading to . . . the missing day, the lost companion, the frantic search to reconstruct events.
The setup is identical, and even some individual jokes are cloned - socially awkward Alan (Galifianakis) attempts a toast, the boys watch video that fills in gaps in their blacked-out memories and they get stuck with an animal.
This time it's a chain-smoking monkey. The smoke is CGI, reportedly, and I must say that in a season of graphic overkill, this is easily the best use of special effects I've seen.
"H2" also takes full advantage of Bangkok's reputation as an anything-goes sexual marketplace (leave the kids at home). Given Stu's weakness for prostitutes, you begin to fear for Helms, and with good reason.
Poor Stu always seems to get the worst of things, perhaps because of his character's special place in the Wolf Pack - it is Stu who has the closest thing to a meaningful character arc.
He repeats his trajectory as the milquetoast who must summon the courage to assert himself, this time to a domineering prospective father-in-law.
The rest of the gang fill the role they played in the original, paying today for yesterday's sins. (This time the wolf pack learns not to violate a vow-of-silence policy at a monastery where kung fu is practiced.)
Stu, Alan and Phil are likely to remain America's favorite penitents, and there's still some (though not as much) humor in their pain.
Sure, it's two years later and a new decade, but that hangover is a doozy.