Comedy is damn hard. In pulling yucks n' chuckles out of mass audiences, one man's gut busting and hilarious is another's obtuse, tired, and dimwitted. And what the hell makes things "funny," anyway? There's no concrete definition for an art form this subjective to a person's background and culture, but I've read a few essays where Comedy is laid out as a "reversal of expectations." In simplest form, one example is this: we expect The Man to run across the room, but instead he slips on a banana peel and trips behind a couch. Ba-dum-bum.
While that definition, I suppose, may or may not have a root in most jokes or expressions of what's funny, I bring it up for two important reasons in relation to 'The Hangover Part II'. First, my personal expectations and tastes seem important when trying to evaluate any comedy in critical terms. And second, because of this analysis, my conclusions may only apply to those of similar tastes. Or perhaps not even all. In comedy, more than any other genre, I say you have to experience it to know if you like it, love it, hate it, or anything in between.
In my humble opinion, 'The Hangover' is an outrageously funny film -- a movie that was so good Warner Bros. ordered a sequel script before it was released to the general public -- and I loved every frame. The story follows Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who wake after a Vegas bachelor party so insane, they don't actually recall what happened. A few minutes, one tiger, and one baby later, the trio realize not only have they lost their memories, they've lost their best friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), who is supposed to be married in less than 24 hours. The film, while far from realistic, managed to balance several tones and remain just grounded enough. The success here, I believe, is rooted in the perfect chemistry between the lead actors and the film's structure, which was more akin to a mystery or a police procedural. The whole experience felt fresh under director Todd Phillips' guidance, and most importantly, I laughed until it hurt for two solid hours.
Speaking of Mr. Philips, I'm sure someone smarter than I has already coined the subgenre within which he excels (Frat'venture Bromance?), but I should note that 'The Hangover' has taken its place among a small rotating group of Blu-ray comedies my wife and I watch every few weeks alone, or with friends after hosting a barbecue. Other favorites include (but aren't limited to) 'Old School', 'Step Brothers', 'Hot Tub Time Machine', 'Talladega Nights', 'Superbad', and 'Pineapple Express'. Films of similar tone, most of them are R-rated, foul mouth, raunch fests told from a very male point of view. I just happen to be lucky that my wife loves them equally, if not more than myself.
Sorry for the digression. I know this is supposed to be a review of 'The Hangover Part II', not a list of movies Palmer loves and watches when he's had a few too many adult beverages. What's important to take away from this is that going into the second Hangover film, I feel like I'm pretty much the target demo (albeit, less and less so with each passing year). I loved the first movie, they got the whole cast back for round two, and this time they were going to Bangkok, the one city on Earth that's of more ill repute than Las Vegas.
Let's just say I was very excited. Add to this excitement and the returning original cast, this new script was written by Philips along with two screenwriters I really admire, Scott Armstrong (he wrote 'Old School', and I've been aware of him since I had to learn his name/credits for a job interview), and Craig Mazin (who wrote 'Scary Movie 3 & 4' and co-hosts a fabulously informative Podcast with John August for newbie and aspiring screenwriters).
But at the end of the day, 'The Hangover Part II' left me a little cold and I’m not quite sure why. All the same elements are here, though slightly adjusted. The wolf pack, as Alan calls our three heroes, are now very conscious about what they drink so as to avoid imbibing anything that may cause a repeat of the Las Vegas Incident. Alas, when they wake the morning after the film's setup, they've managed to black out again and lose Stu's future brother-in-law, Teddy. This is particularly distressing for Stu because the only trace of Teddy is "a finger" and Stu's future Father-in-law already hates Stu. If they don't find Teddy, Stu's marriage is over before it even begins. And thus begins another outrageous series of twists and turns through all the wonders and dangers Bangkok has to offer.
It's odd. I can watch 'The Hangover' over and over again, and knowing what's going to happen doesn't really diminish the experience. But the second film follows the original structure so closely, knowing how the magic trick worked, so to speak, detracted from the experience. The film seems less like a "next chapter" and more a copy of the original. While this structural homage is clearly the intent of the film, it seems like everyone is constantly apologizing for the plagiarism, as characters seems to often repeat, "I can't believe this is happening again."
Again, I’m not 100 pecent sure why this didn't sit right with me. I laughed, but not as much as I wanted to. 'The Hangover Part II' isn't really a bad film. The mystery works. Individual scenes are funny. The friends work out their emotional issues again. The filmmakers manage to take what we know about the first film, and twist it. My favorite parts are the smoking monkey, the silent monk, the kid-wolfpack flashbacks, and much like the first film, the end credits photomontage may be the funniest bits of the film. I would actually like to talk to someone who has seen Part II without seeing Part I; would this person enjoy what would seem less familiar to them? I'm not sure.
Perhaps the film with grow on me in repeat viewings. Perhaps most of you reading this loved the film. And that's great too. There's a lot of talent at work here, and whether or not this one is a great as the lightning in a bottle original, I look forward to seeing what they all do next, presumably, in 'The Hangover Part III'. Hopefully they'll be able to reverse my expectations.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros presents 'The Hangover Part II in a two disc set featuring a BD50 Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and written instructions on how to access the film's downloadable and/or streamable UltraViolet Digital Copy (which must be "redeemed by December 6, 2013"). Popping in the Blu-ray disc brings up ads for Blu-ray 3D (featuring Warner Bros. titles, of course) and WBInsiderRewards.com before arriving at the simple main menu.
'The Hangover Part II' arrives on Blu-ray with a pleasing AVC MPEG4 encode in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
As one would expect with all modern studio films, this Blu-ray features no source blemishes and oodles detail under a nice filmic layer of grain. Viewers will drink in the facial, hair, and clothing textures of the actors next to the picturesque resort and many filthy Bangkok hotel. The film's saturated color palette is perfect for HDTV displays, with warm, bright colors. Skin tones are generally accurate, but seem a tad flushed. While some of the daytime sequences can feel a little '70s-era gritty, the night scenes pop with color and clarity, featuring deep, inky blacks. There is, however, a tad of crush here.
Overall, 'The Hangover Part II' looks great on Blu-ray and accurately represents the film's theatrical experience.
'The Hangover Part II' may be a comedy, a genre known for front heavy soundtracks, but the 5.1 English DTS-HD MA is a well-rounded winner.
Dialog is crisp and clear. The film's score elements and music selections really show off surround channels, providing a wide soundstage. There's nice panning effects as songs spread from front to rear or rear to front for different sequence transitions. Surrounds also get plenty of world atmosphere. Whether you're in an IHOP restaurant, or a Bangkok city street, it sounds like you're really there. There's great use of directional panning as well, for voices, gunfire, squeaking monkeys, and other sound effects. LFE roars when they cut into the riot flashbacks outside the white lion.
Though I saw this film in the theatres, I forgot how good this movie sounds. It's not quit the best of the best, but there's a lot of nice, detailed, discrete work to delight audio fans.
'The Hangover Part II' two disc edition includes about 40 minutes worth of special features, all of which are in high definition.
'The Hangover Part II' is just like the original, only slightly bigger, louder, and set in Bangkok. As a fan of film one, I wasn't as taken with this chapter as I was its predecessor, but that's simply one man's opinion. The Blu-ray features a bright, saturated, detailed color palate and terrific (better than most "comedies") surround sound track. For fans of the film, this is an easy buy. This mutli-disc set offers access to special features you can't get with any other edition. For fans of the first film and for those who have not seen it, my personal opinion is that you should probably rent it first to see if it’s a must add to your collection. This of course is more difficult given Warners' rental windows, but Vudu and OnDemand should be available day-and-date.