The Wolfpack is back for more of the same in Todd Phillips' The Hangover Part II. When the bros went to Las Vegas two years ago, The Hangover became the highest grossing American comedy of all time, and stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis became household names. For this outing the action shifts to Bangkok, perhaps the only city other than Amsterdam colorful enough to sustain this franchise. I can understand not wanting to screw up the comedic formula, but The Hangover Part II is nothing more than a rehash of the first film in a new location. This lack of innovation is disappointing, but at least you know what you're getting.
It is Stu's (Helms) turn to walk down the aisle, and his wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung) is happening in Thailand to please the bride's parents. Phil (Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Lauren's brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), are on the guest list, and Stu makes a last-minute concession so Alan (Galifianakis) can come, too. After a beautiful rehearsal dinner at which Alan reminds Stu of his earlier marriage to a Vegas hooker, the boys make a bonfire on the beach and crack a few brews. Yeah, you know what happens next.
The Wolfpack awakens in a seedy hotel room and soon realizes that Stu has a Mike Tyson tribal tattoo on his face and that Teddy is nowhere to be found. In his place are a strung-out Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and an adorable, chain-smoking capuchin monkey. The Bangkok setting is ripe for debauchery, even if The Hangover Part II does not always make the most of its time in the Thai capital. As in the first film, the guys attempt to retrace their actions of the previous evening, as Teddy must be found before the wedding. Along the way they visit a Buddhist monastery, Kathoey cabaret and the tattoo parlor where Stu got his ink. The film excels at showing pieces of the chaotic city and some anonymous back alleys, but its voyage through Bangkok feels slightly superficial.
Phillips is a fine director, and the $80-million film is much more polished and professional than other similarly bawdy comedies. Despite a couple of detours involving Lauren's parents and a local gangster (Paul Giamatti), The Hangover Part II wisely sticks with its central Wolfpack trio. Doug, the MIA groom-to-be in the first film, altogether avoids a hangover, and serves up advice from the deck of a resort swimming pool. Teddy's absence drives the plot, but the conflict is not particularly urgent in light of all the mischief the guys get into on their second tour of the city.
Since The Hangover Part II is basically a repeat of the first film, it ups the R-rated humor to get a leg up. The jokes are dirtier but not necessarily funnier, and the nudity is less shocking than tedious. Is The Hangover Part II funny? Yeah. At least some of it is, thanks to Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis, who have a damn good thing going. Expect more slick Phil, earnest Stu and idiot Alan, and Crystal the Monkey holds her own, too. There are several lengthy stretches when the film goes without a solid joke, and a retooling of the script to make it less episodic might have improved the final product. The Hangover Part II is not a failure, but it feels lazy. A bit of variety would be nice next time around.
The film is a bit limp, but Warner Brothers' 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is anything but. Every outrageous detail is visible on the sun-baked streets of smoggy Bangkok. From the pores on Stu's face to the colorful flora along the city's canals to the monkey's fur, all can be seen in this sharp, crystal-clear transfer. The image is consistently deep, with excellent texture and clarity. Colors are explosive but never bleed, and skin tones are appropriately tanned. A nice layer of grain remains intact but never becomes oppressive, and I noticed no excessive noise. Blacks are deep and rich, exhibiting little crush, and I only noticed very minor shimmering. There are no issues with edge enhancement or digital noise reduction. The Hangover Part II looks great on Blu-ray.
The film's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a step above the average comedy mix, providing a deep, immersive experience for viewers. The track starts off as a largely front-loaded affair, but livens up as the film moves forward. The street life in Bangkok echoes from the surround speakers but never overwhelms the dialogue. The sounds of deadmau5 pulsating at a cabaret bring the LFE to life, and Billy Joel sings deeply and in-tune as the guys fly to Thailand. The track is quite weighty during scenes of gunfire and a street brawl, with bullets flying around the entire soundscape. Range is excellent, and directional effects and ambiance are handled with ease. French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available, as are English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
The Hangover Part II arrives on Blu-ray in "combo pack" style from Warner Brothers. The set includes the Blu-ray, a barebones DVD copy of the film, and an UltraViolet steaming digital copy for you to use, ignore or bitch about. A glossy slipcover wraps the Blu-ray eco-case. Director Phillips doesn't seem set on serving up piles of bonus features, but the Blu-ray has a couple of nice additions:
- Unauthorized Documentary (25:26/HD) - This surprisingly funny faux-documentary follows a budding filmmaker as he tries to uncover the real truth about the bad behavior on set in Thailand. Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis apparently got up to no good, and director Phillips and the studio went to great lengths to cover it up. The piece includes interviews with Phillips, Crystal the Monkey, filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Morgan Spurlock, and some real journalists.
- The Comedy Rhythm of Todd Phillips (6:59/HD) - This piece is all about director Phillips and his shooting style. This includes some nice footage of the cast improvising and trying different line readings.
- Not Your Everyday Monkey (2:41/HD) - Crystal the Capuchin Monkey is the star of this featurette. Apparently, Cooper had a bit of a crush on his talented primate co-star.
- Bangkok Tour with Chow (3:03/HD) - Ken Jeong gives an in-character Tuk Tuk tour of Thailand. If you like Mr. Chow, ladyboys or cocaine, this is the tour for you.
- Gag Reel (4:53/HD) - This gag reel is not particularly funny, but the cast seems to enjoy shooting the film.
- Action Mashup (0:46/HD) - This is a pointless reel that compiles bits from all the film's action sequences. Next...
- BD-Live Portal - Warner Brothers provides its standard BD-Live connectivity on this disc.
It is business as usual for the Wolfpack in The Hangover Part II. Another wedding is put in jeopardy when Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in Bangkok without Stu's future brother-in-law. The jokes are dirtier but the laughs do not flow as freely in this sequel, which brings very little new to the table. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis carry the film with their chemistry and Todd Phillips keeps the ball rolling, but The Hangover Part II feels half-assed and familiar. There are just enough laughs that when paired with Warner Brothers' excellent Blu-ray, The Hangover Part II is Recommended.
*The screenshots in this review were taken from the included DVD and do not represent the quality of the Blu-ray.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.