May 27, 2011 in Features

‘Hangover II’ is cheaper, raunchier; and there’s no cure

Christopher Kelly Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

From left, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms are shown in a scene from “The Hangover Part II.”
(Full-size photo)

Chain-smoking monkeys! Transsexual prostitutes! Staff-wielding Buddhist monks!

Yup, it’s time for another round of graphic gross-out comedy and cultural insensitivity, courtesy of writer-director Todd Phillips (“Due Date,” “Old School”), a comic filmmaker who has little use for subtlety.

Less a sequel to the surprise 2009 blockbuster than a Thai-flavored remake, “The Hangover Part II” aims low and (if only barely) hits the mark. You can watch it with your eyes closed and still know every beat.

The groom this time is the mild-mannered dentist Stu (Ed Helms), who has bid adieu to his prostitute first wife (Heather Graham, the only major cast member from the original not invited back) and is now set to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung) in Thailand.

Stu insists that there will be no bachelor party (just brunch), but of course if there weren’t one there wouldn’t be a movie, or executive bonus checks at Warner Bros.

So before long, Stu and his buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are waking up in a fetid Bangkok apartment, with the severed fingers of Lauren’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee) as the only evidence of the bleary, apparently deadly night they’ve just shared.

For the first 30 minutes or so, “The Hangover Part II” amiably coasts along on the off-the-wall appeal of Galifianakis, whose mixture of childlike wonder (in Thailand, you can drink Fanta soda in a bag!) and borderline-sociopathic jealousy remains this franchise’s strongest asset.

But as the men piece together what happened to them, we’re served up a series of not especially inspired variations on the first film. In lieu of a baby to cart around, they have a capuchin monkey; instead of having his teeth knocked out, Stu sports a Mike Tyson-style face tattoo.

Perhaps this movie’s extreme fidelity to the original is some kind of self-reflexive gag – whereas Justin Bartha’s Doug was mistaken for a black drug dealer in the first one, Lee’s Teddy gets mistaken for an aged monk in this one – but that feels more lazy than clever.

The film relies on the cheapest of cheap stereotypes in order to generate comedy (in the case of Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow, the mincing Asian drug dealer with the preposterously small genitalia, it’s the exact same set of stereotypes we were served up last time).

And even more than the original, this new movie seems compelled by heterosexual anxiety about gay sex.

The movie’s biggest “shock” sequence involves Stu and a gorgeous stripper named Kimmy (Yasmin Lee), who isn’t quite what she appears – and who, like every other nonwhite, nonstraight character in the movie, is cruelly humiliated by Phillips’ camera.

Lee gets exploited for a quick, startling laugh, then is cynically shunted out of the proceedings. And when the initial buzz of comedy fades, you’re left with a deeply sour aftertaste.


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