The Hangover Part II Blu-ray ReviewDecember 05, 2011
The ultimate job of any comedy is to find a light side to the darker chapters of life.
The Hangover Part II is a never-ceasing sequence of increasingly more horrible events in which the level of intensity and the harrowing stakes the characters face leaves no room for laughter.
It is certainly not lifeless. The movie is very much alive with tension and mystery (it doesn't pull either off particularly well, but those story elements are at least present). What the movie lacks is a pretty important component to any comedy: Laughs.
The movie picks up two years after the events of the original Hangover. Stu (Ed Helms) is set to marry his fiancée in just a few days in Bangkok. Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zack Galifanakis) naturally insist on coming along.
Once they arrive, the trio and Stu's brother-in-law-to-be, Teddy (Mason Lee) share a beer on the beach.
However, the movie immediately cuts to the next day where our three heroes awaken in a Bangkok hotel room and discover that Teddy has gone missing. Thus begins a second helping of Phil, Stu, and Alan trying to piece together clues to find out what they did the previous night in an effort to find Teddy.
Along the way, they're both aided and hindered by Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong reprising his role as the nefarious-yet-effeminate Asian criminal) and also get a helping hand from a chain-smoking monkey.
It's a simple formula, and it's undeniable that it worked beautifully in the first film. Where it fails this time around is in its complete lack of levity and light-heartedness.
While the first movie might have been raunchy and borderline-offensive in places, the problems the characters faced really weren't much more complex or harrowing that what you'd see on your average weekly sitcom: Stu got married in Vegas, there was a case of mistaken identity (the Black Doug and White Doug switcheroo), etc.
Bottom line? The original was like an episode of Three's Company with more dick jokes.
This time around, the characters have to decipher clues such as Teddy's severed finger and have to deal with complications like Stu having a bizarre, identity-redefining moment with a transvestite hooker.
At the risk of starting to sound like a prude, let me say that the material itself is not something I find objectionable. On the contrary, I'm the type who believes that you can find a way to laugh about anything.
The Hangover Part II, however, seems as though it doesn't want us to laugh. It makes no effort to find any humor in the ordeals faced by its characters; it simply stands idly by as the action unfolds and says to its audience, "Look at all this! Isn't that messed up?!"
Even the performances of its cast, led by three genuinely funny and likable actors, bring nothing but disappointment.
Cooper is ostensibly the movie's lead. He has the look and demeanor of the leading man and the script (as it did with the first film) sets him up as the group's de facto leader. But while in the first movie Cooper managed to find a few bright spots in an otherwise irredeemable role (there's absolutely no question that Phil is an unabashed asshole), this time he plays Phil with no likable tendencies whatsoever.
Ed Helms delivers a pretty good performance as Stu inasmuch as he reacts to all of the horrors and disasters surrounding him essentially as you'd expect anyone to react to them; unfortunately, there's nothing inherently funny about that - again, a key ingredient to any comedy.
And Galifanakis, who found himself the breakout star of the original, wears thin in his portrayal of Alan. I'm not sure how much longer Galifanakis can milk the "Eccentric man-child" cow. To put it bluntly, he was more entertaining in his role as Hobo Joe in The Muppets than he was in this movie.
The writing of this film is also problematic. And that isn't to say that director Todd Phillips, who wrote the script along with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, didn't put together a story where all the elements fit together. Actually, the plot and the story weave together rather nicely to forge an engaging narrative.
A real issue for me when it comes to the writing of any sequel is when the script continually calls attention to the original. I can't remember the last time a sequel had so many "Here we go again!" moments. Weekend at Bernie's II, maybe?
One of the constant complaints I heard about this movie while it was in its theatrical release was that it was essentially a rehash of the original. And it's absurd how accurate a description that is.
I understand the need to have a fluidity of sorts when it comes to making a sequel feel familiar, but one of the biggest reasons I found myself unable to laugh at this movie was that I continually felt as though I had already seen it two years earlier.
Warner Bros. brings The Hangover Part II to Blu-ray with a beautiful 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that takes full advantage of the simultaneously decadent and grimy atmosphere of the surroundings. The gorgeous, lush greens and the bright blue of the ocean at the Thai resort where the wedding is set to take place come to vibrant life.
At the same time, the textures and dirt and grime are all extraordinarily lifelike once the movie shifts settings to Bangkok. There are some noise issues, but for the most part they're easily dismissed. The one exception is a car scene where there's absolutely no chance of ignoring it.
Some of the night time scenes are also plagued by some crushed blacks, but all-in-all this is a pretty clean picture.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also quite good. Dialogue is crisp and clear, which is important for a comedy (even though, as noted numerous times, there aren't very many jokes to miss). The mix of ambient noise is subtle and lifelike, and the more action-packed scenes (in particular a car chase through the streets of Bangkok) have been mixed fairly well.
If there's a complaint to be had about the bigger noises (i.e. car crashes and gunshots), it's that they tend to favor the center channels. However, this tends to be more of an issue with comedy in general when it comes to Blu-ray rather than an issue with The Hangover Part II specifically.
Beyond the Feature
The Hangover Part II comes packed with a decent-but-not great selection of bonus features. The first thing I noticed when I checked out the back of the box was a lack of the Maximum Movie Mode, something that's become a staple of the more successful Warner Bros. releases.
Given that this was the studio's second-biggest hit of the summer (second only to some movie about a kid with a wand ... Garry Trotter, I think it's called?), it only seemed natural to give this movie the Maximum Movie treatment.
I mean, come on... Cop Out had a Maximum Movie Mode, something sorely needed for this release. Because the bonus features that were included? Not so great.
The 25:26 Unauthorized Documentary, a mockumentary about a Warner Bros. attempt to cover up the truth about the three lead actors' hijinks on location in Thailand, is as painfully unfunny as the movie (despite the efforts of several genuinely-funny "interview subjects" such as J.J. Abrams and Morgan Spurlock).
I had high hopes for the Bangkok Tour with Chow feature, which runs 3:03, but was let down by a series of unfunny improves from Ken Jeong.
The rest of the bonus features are as follows:
Also included on this two-disc set is the UltraViolet streaming digital copy as well as a DVD copy of the film.
I've said before that comedy is a really difficult genre to review. In my opinion, it is the most ambiguous and subjective genre in all of art.
To say that this movie isn't funny is subjective. But I think one notion that will find some thread of universality among all viewers is that The Hangover Par t II is simply not as fun as the original. Whether you find the movie to be amusing or not, I feel certain that you'll find it more of a grind to make it through to the end than you did the first time around.
One thing watching a comedy should definitely not feel like is work. And watching this movie definitely felt like work.
Also, it wasn't funny.
- Jason Jarman
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