CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE HANGOVER PART II
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A filthy hotel room in the middle of Bangkok. LL SOARES wakes up in the bathtub, dressed in a torn Pee Wee Herman outfit, and stares up at the cracked and leaking ceiling)
LS: Where the hell am I?
(Strange circus music is coming from a closet. LS approaches a closet door and opens it. Tigers and monkeys come pouring out. He scratches his head. When they’re all out, LS hears a loud groan. He turns and sees MICHAEL ARRUDA roll off the top of a bunk bed and crash to the floor. MA sits up quickly.)
MA: What just happened? Why are you dressed like Pee-Wee Herman? (looks at himself) And why am I wearing STAR TREK pajamas?
LS: You packed those yourself.
MA: I did not. (sees himself in mirror and screams). What happened to my face?
LS: You have a tattoo. It’s about time.
MA: What the hell kind of a tattoo is this? It looks like a dinner roll with a crack in it.
LS: Hmmm, now that I really look at it, I think it’s a butt.
(MA screams again)
LS: You’re a Butthead! I like it!
MA: This is awful! How did we get here? What’s going on?
LS: Well, remember last night? We were drinking with John Harvey, I think. I can’t remember much else.
MA: Drinking with John Harvey? That’s not a good sign. I don’t remember (closes his eyes) Okay, it’s coming back to me now. I remember, I think. Where is John, anyway?
LS: Well he sure isn’t here.
MA: How did we— this is just awful.
LS: It’s not so bad. Stuff like this happens to me all the time.
(A tiger roars, and they turn around to see a room full of them, pacing back and forth. Little monkeys in baby clothes run around the ceiling beams)
LS: They won’t hurt us, as long as we show no fear.
MA: And you know this because—?
LS: I told you. I have experience with this sort of thing.
MA: Don’t we have a movie to review?
LS: Oh yeah, I forgot. We’re reviewing THE HANGOVER PART II this time around. This is something new for us. We don’t usually review regular comedies, usually just the horror comedies, like SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) and ZOMBIELAND (2009).
MA: I’d feel better reviewing this movie someplace else, away from the tigers.
LS: Do you always have to play it safe? Where’s your sense of adventure?
MA: Fine. Start the review. We’ll just look tough and hope the tigers aren’t hungry.
(One of the tigers puts on a bib and starts rubbing a knife and fork together)
LS: Okay. THE HANGOVER PART II takes place a few years after the first movie. Once again we are introduced to buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Oh yeah, and Doug (Justin Bartha). But we don’t see much of Doug, just like last time.
In the last movie, for those who didn’t see it, the guys had a bachelor party for Doug in Vegas, and got completely drunk (and were unexpectedly drugged, too) and woke up to a nightmare as they tried to piece together the events of the night before. As they slowly put the pieces together, the hijinks they were up to the night before just get worse and worse. This time around, it’s goofy nice-guy dentist Stu who’s getting married, to Lauren (Jamie Chung), a sweet girl whose father is a big businessman in Thailand. So they have the wedding there and invite their closest friends to join them.
MA: Yeah, Stu broke up with his mean girlfriend from the first movie.
LS: Yeah, that was nice to see.
One thing about Thailand, it sure is beautiful. There are some great shots of the mountains and forests, and it just looks amazing.
But sightseeing is not what this movie is about.
MA: Unless you’re into seeing naked Asian men named Chow hop around and spew out obscenities. That character sure is annoying!
LS: Oh yeah, the hyper Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the Asian gangster from the first movie who made the guys’ lives miserable, is along for the ride this time, too. Since then, he’s become Alan’s buddy and comes to town for the wedding—as well as lots of illegal activity—which just creates more complications for everyone.
(Suddenly someone who is hanging on to the ceiling fan above their heads jumps down. It’s a naked MR. CHOW)
CHOW: Did someone call Chow? It’s time to party, bee-yitches!
MA: Oh, no! It’s him.
CHOW: You got that right! Time to holler!
(MA pushes him out of an open window and CHOW hollers as he falls four floors down)
LS: That wasn’t very nice.
MA: Ya think?
LS: But you’re usually the nice guy in this team.
MA: Well, that’s one of the reasons CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT works so well. We’re unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen, or which one of us is going to lose it.
LS: It’s about time you showed your dark side.
Anyway, back to the movie.
This time, the guys are determined not to get out of control before the wedding ceremony. They just sit around a bonfire on a beach, drinking beers with Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), when…you guessed it…they wake up the next day in a filthy Bangkok hotel room – just like this one we’re in – and have to figure out how they got there and what they did the night before. Oh yeah, in the first movie, they had to find out what had happened to Doug, who had disappeared for most of the film. This time around, they lose Teddy, and have to track him down.
When Alan wakes up, he finds his head is shaved and Stu finds he has a tribal tattoo on his face (much like the one Mike Tyson has – oh yeah, Tyson was in the first movie, so that’s where he got the idea!)
MA: Speaking of Mike Tyson— yeah, he was in the first movie, and he shows up again here to sing a song. Now, I know his singing was supposed to be bad on purpose (at least I hope it was!) but I gotta tell you, it was so dreadfully horrible, it might just be the worst singing I’ve ever heard in a movie! It sounded the way I imagine a moose might sound if it could sing.
LS: Their adventures—or rather, misadventures—bring them into contact with everything from severed fingers and cigarette-smoking monkeys, to Russian drug dealers and transsexual strippers, to Buddhist monks and even some American gangsters, led by an effective but mostly underused Paul Giamatti. There’s a corpse to get rid of and someone has to be bailed out of a Bangkok jail. So, it gets complicated.
(A monkey dressed in a tutu pees on MA’s head from above)
(MA raises a pistol and shoots the monkey.)
LS: You really are showing your dark side today.
MA: Let’s just say I don’t really enjoy getting peed on, okay?
LS: PART TWO pretty much follows the same exact formula as the first HANGOVER (2009). It’s just in a different locale. So there’s not a lot of originality here. That said, the cast is solid and there are some big laughs. Although I thought it would be pretty much non-stop funny throughout—it wasn’t. There were some stretches without much laughs. But the good gags were very good.
MA: PART TWO follows the exact same formula as the original, but in this case, it isn’t a bad thing. Sure, this sequel does lack the freshness of the first one, but it hardly matters. The reason the first movie was so successful was because of its formula— three guys waking up after a drunken night out, with no memory of the night before, finding themselves in one crazy predicament after another, as they try to locate their missing friend. If the sequel had the same three guys doing something else, say on a cross country trip adventure, it wouldn’t be the same, because the best part of the original was the gimmick of the three guys piecing together their previous night.
So this is a case where repeating the same gimmick is a good thing because it’s the gimmick we want to see.
LS: Well, I don’t know how well future sequels will hold up. This formula is bound to get tired eventually. For me, the characters are just as important as the formula. I enjoy these movies because I like Phil, Stu and Alan. I think they’re great characters.
MA: See, I’m not a big fan of these characters. If I had to choose, I’d rather watch another movie with the same gimmick but different characters, as opposed to another movie with the same characters in a different plot, which is kind of weird, since usually if I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the movie. Then again, I don’t dislike these characters. I just don’t think they’re the strength of the movie.
LS: And if the next sequel deviated from the formula a little, I don’t think I’d mind too much, as long as it gave the characters a lot to do. Hell, I even like Mr. Chow.
MA: I hate that guy!
LS: I know, I know.
(A hand reaches in through a window, as MR. CHOW pulls himself back into the room. He’s bruised and bloody from his fall)
CHOW: Did someone call Chow? (smiles) Here I am!
(MA slams the window closed, crushing CHOW’s hand. He lifts the window pane again, and CHOW falls four floors down again)
MA: THE HANGOVER movies don’t play like traditional comedies to me, which is why I like them, even though I don’t think their overly funny. They play more like a television reality show. Watch three guys thrown into the middle of a foreign city try to solve the mystery of where they were/what they did, and locate their missing friend. Who knows what zany exploits these guys will experience, but you’ll tune in week after week to find out!
I like THE HANGOVER movies because they present a fun gimmick, more so than strong comedy.
LS: Whatever. As usual, Bradley Cooper plays Phil, the foul-mouthed, no-nonsense leader of the group. He’s the one who always keeps a cool head, and tries his best not to freak out as much as everyone else does. Cooper is pretty much the straight man in these movies, and he’s very good at it. As we’ve seen in recent films from MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2009) to LIMITLESS (2011), Cooper might just be the guy from this series to have a big career ahead of him as a serious leading man.
MA: I agree. I like Cooper a lot. That being said, I thought he was better in the first movie. He seemed to have less to do in this one. His character also looked bored at times, unlike Helms and Galifianakis who I though kept their characters fresh and energetic.
LS: Helms, as the jumpy dentist, Stu, is hilarious as he overreacts to just about everything, and struggles to keep his sanity intact as the guys desperately try to find out what they were up to the night before.
MA: I really enjoy Ed Helms in these movies.
LS: Yeah, me, too.
And Galifianakis, as the finicky, child-like Alan, continues to be very funny. One telling scene while Alan is meditating gives us a peak into his skull – where he and his friends are all children getting into mayhem. He doesn’t even perceive of himself as an adult, and it shows in everything he does.
MA: I was only lukewarm to Galifianakis in the first movie, as I thought his character was overrated, but he definitely grew on me in this movie. I found him funnier in this sequel. Also, with his shaved head, he was reminiscent of Curly Howard. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.
LS: Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow is a real highlight here, too, just as he was in the first movie. Unfortunately, he’s just not in this movie enough. When he’s onscreen, he’s very funny and the character is wildly unpredictable. But PART TWO could have used more of that.
MA: Mr. Chow, a highlight? I find that character so damned annoying! I think he’s the least funny part of both movies. I don’t find his shtick funny at all. He’s grating and annoying.
(There is a knock at the door. MA goes to answer it)
CHOW (bloodier now, and bones are sticking out of his body): Did someone call Chow? Here I am!
(MA pushes him down the stairs and slams the door shut)
LS: Like the first movie, this one was directed by Todd Phillips. I’ve followed his career ever since his first movie, HATED (1994), the documentary he did about punk legend, GG Allin. Soon after that, he dove into the world of comedy, making ROAD TRIP (2000) with Tom Green and OLD SCHOOL (2003), which pretty much made Will Ferrell a movie star.
Considering the state of modern comedies, THE HANGOVER films are one of the better franchises out there. But I’m not sure how much longer they can keep it up. The idea was fresh the first time around, but with PART TWO, the formula has already become predictable– even if there are still a few surprises along the way. And there are still some big laughs. I just wish there were more of them. Even the cigarette-smoking monkey, which I thought would be hilarious, wasn’t as funny as I expected.
MA: Yeah, these films are funny, but neither one was as funny as I expected them to be. But that being said, I still liked both movies a lot. Sure, I don’t know if I’d be into seeing a HANGOVER 3, but then again, it’s a gimmick that works, so why not? Their misadventures are just so wildly over the top and crazy they’re hard not to like.
Admittedly, the situations in the sequel don’t seem as outlandish as the situations in the original, but maybe that’s the repetitiveness setting in. And a lot of them are similar. Instead of finding a baby as they did in the original, this time it’s a monkey. Instead of losing a tooth, this time Stu has a facial tattoo.
LS: Yeah, when you put it that way, it is kind of “by-the-numbers.”
MA: But the comedy is there, even if the laughs don’t happen as often as you’d like. One funny line that I thought was good comedy was when Phil gets shot and they go to a Thai hospital for treatment, and as they’re leaving the hospital, Phil says “That was only $6.00. How is that possible?” Which I thought was a funny comment on today’s health care mess.
LS: Yeah, I liked that one, too.
MA: While, as you said, Todd Phllips directed both HANGOVER movies, the sequel had new writers, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, and the screenplay is pretty much what you would expect, which isn’t a bad thing. Let’s put it this way. This script isn’t going to win any awards for Best Screenplay, but that’s okay, because we’re not seeing THE HANGOVER movies for their writing.
If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. I know I did. I give it three knives.
LS: It wasn’t as totally hilarious as I was hoping, but it was a lot of fun. What the hell, I’ll give it three knives, too.
You know, this is actually a good year for comedy. After I saw THE HANGOVER PART II, I went to see another new comedy, BRIDESMAIDS, and it was much funnier than I was expecting. Starring Kristen Wiig (from SNL and a ton of small roles in recent movies), who also co-wrote it, it was kind of the female version of THE HANGOVER, in some ways. Just as character-driven and not afraid to get raunchy. It’s kind of cool to have two decent comedies playing in theaters the same week.
MA: Hey, I think I just remembered what happened to John Harvey. Follow me.
(LS follows MA up to the roof of the building.)
MA: I remember he said he was heading to the roof to chat with the pigeons.
LS: Pigeons? What the hell are you talking about!
MA (points): Look, there he is!
LS: Whoa! What in the hell?
MA: John! John, wake up!
JOHN HARVEY (opens eyes): What happened? Where am I? Why do I feel so strange?
MA: We’re— not really sure what happened.
LS: Dude—how is that even possible?
MA: John, you’re a dwarf. (Holds mirror for JH to see himself, revealing his head is on the body of a little person).
JH: Aw hell! And I thought I was hallucinating when the Magical Little People said they would make me their brother. You guys want to help me track down those little buggers to get my real body back?
MA: Sure. I’m up for a little adventure.
JH: By the way, nice bow tie, LL.
LS: Shaddup, you.
Well, I guess anything can happen in Bangkok! Hey, let’s grab some breakfast first. I could eat a tiger and a bunch of monkeys!
MA: And we can finally get out of these clothes. Okay, folks, that’s it for now. We’ll see you next time after we get John Harvey’s body back.
LS: Michael, I think you should keep that tattoo. It suits you.
MA: Why don’t you go stick your head in one of those tiger’s mouths?
LS: Tsk tsk. I wonder what Mr. Chow would say.
CHOW (his hand grabs onto the edge of the roof, as he pulls himself up): Did someone call Chow?
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART II – three knives!
LL Soares gives THE HANGOVER PART II – three knives, too!