By Sandra Kraisirideja
Director Todd Phillips has created a satisfying sequel to “The Hangover” by not being afraid to push the boundaries of the original.
Let me be the first to predict that from now on, when somebody asks if a successful comedy sequel has ever been made the answer will be Todd Phillips and “The Hangover Part II.”
Everything in “The Hangover Part II” is more intense, shocking and crazy than the original. I’m not going to give away the details of how “The Hangover Part II” is more over-the-top than the original. You will have to see it for yourself and I suggest you go ASAP because you won’t be able to avoid hearing about it from everyone else. This is a movie people will be talking about on Monday morning.
I didn’t think it would be possible to top the scenarios in “The Hangover” but I am very glad that Phillips proved me wrong. Let’s start with the location. If there is a place that is even more decadent than Las Vegas, then Bangkok, Thailand would certainly be a front-runner. The Wolf Pack travels to Thailand for Stu’s wedding and despite his efforts to avoid repeating the events in Las Vegas, it happens again.
Most of the time with sequels people have two questions, “Should I see it?” and “Is it better than the original?” The first question is easy because the answer is “Yes!” The second question is harder to answer. It’s difficult for a sequel to be better than an original because the original will always have the element of being first, which makes it unique.
“The Hangover Part II” isn’t better than the first but it is better than expected for a comedy sequel.
Comedy sequels are hard to pull off because the humor isn’t a surprise anymore. The audience is expecting to laugh so the situations have to be recreated in a way that can make the humor can feel fresh again.
I’ve seen “The Hangover” multiple times and when I heard a sequel was in the works I watched it again with the sole purpose of figuring out why the movie worked so well.
The relationship between Stu, Phil and Alan was key. Even though Doug is the reason why they are all together, he wasn’t really in the movie. Luckily Phillips was able to keep this same dynamic in Part II.
Once again it’s Stu, Phil and Alan who must work together in order to figure out what happened the night before and locate a missing person. This time that person is Stu’s future brother-in-law.
It helps that all of the original cast members—Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakis—are back, including Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow. Phillips made the smart decision to have Mr. Chow return as a friend rather than an enemy so he doesn’t just rehash what he did in the original.
Something else that worked in the original was what was left out of the movie. The friends crazy night of debauchery is only revealed in bits and pieces as the story unfolds. Only at the end do we get to see the full extent of what went on.
Phillips uses these same tactics in Part II but with twists that top what went down in Las Vegas. For example, the scene where Stu, Phil and Alan wake up in the morning was done in a complete opposite direction than the original.
In Las Vegas, the boys’ lavish hotel room was completely demolished and stuffed to the rafters with artifacts of what looks like an insane party. In Thailand, the Wolf Pack wakes up in a dingy, roach-infested apartment that is very sparse. Interestingly the effect is the same as in the original because we know what these characters are capable of.
Finally, another element that made “The Hangover” work was Stu’s development as a character. Of everyone in the movie he goes through the most change and in the end it’s really his story. If there is an emotional core to the original than Stu is it. It’s not surprising that Part II takes place during Stu’s wedding. He’s the one that everyone roots for.
Phillips copied the formula of the first movie but made just enough changes so that it feels different from the original. Phillips understood what made “The Hangover” work and kept those elements in place. If it works, why fix it? The best a director could hope for with a sequel would be to create a continuation of what he started and Phillips has done that with “The Hangover Part II.”