Film Friday: ‘The Hangover Part II’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’

by W. Andrew Powell

Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms in The Hangover Part II

Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms in The Hangover Part II

May 27th is the weekend of twos. Opening in theatres, The Hangover Part II heads to Thailand for another memorable night with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis; plus Jack Black and Angelina Jolie star in the animated sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2.

The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Jamie Chung, Mason Lee
Director: Todd Phillips

Rated: 6/10

Let me get this out of the way right from the start; if you’re a fan of the first Hangover, chances are very good you’re going to love The Hangover Part II. At the same time, I’m going to bet that the biggest fan of the original film is still going to wonder why the sequel has the exact same plot.

Sure, The Hangover Part II is somewhat different. There are new jokes, a very different setting, and even the ending has a moderately different tone, but the sames definitely outweigh the differences.

This time out, the groom-to-be is Stu, played by Ed Helms, and he’s set to marry the beautiful Lauren (Mason Lee). Playing it safe this time, Stu plans a simple breakfast “bachelor party” with his friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha), before they set out for Thailand, where the wedding is set to take place with Lauren’s family. The guys aren’t thrilled, but Stu feels like he’s dodged a bullet by avoiding another crazy night, like Doug’s bachelor party.

Once they arrive, Stu has to contend with Lauren’s father, who is less than thrilled with Stu as his future son-in-law, but the other problem with the pre-wedding festivities is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who was reluctantly invited along for the event and is of course causing trouble.

Despite all that, the trip seems to be going okay until Phil suggests the guys have a fire on the beach and drink a few beers. With Lauren’s brother Teddy (Mason Lee) in tow, the guys start what was meant to be an innocent evening that once again leads to debauchery, this time in Bangkok.

Waking up with no idea where they are or what’s going on, Phil, Stu and Alan find themselves in a filthy hotel with no memory of the night before. What they do realize quite quickly though is that Alan’s head has been shaved, Stu has a tattoo on his face, there’s a monkey in the room, and Teddy is missing. This sets off an adventure across the city looking for the misplaced honour student, as Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) gets them into trouble with local drug dealers, and the law.

Following the exact same plot points as before, on purpose of course, the film can be summed up with the same moments as the first Hangover, even down to returning the “pet” they stole, making a trade to get back their lost friend, and Stu suddenly realizing what they should have figured out from the start while Phil is on the phone with the bride-to-be.

Don’t get me wrong, The Hangover Part II is funny. The first half of the film even feels like it’s cleverly referencing the original, rather than just lazily ripping it off, but by the time we’re into the second half of the film, the story is stale, and the plot is obviously boring when you know what comes next.

The script isn’t particularly clever either, with a few sight gags, in-jokes, and weak cameos (although I did enjoy Mike Tyson’s appearance, who is clearly a good sport) that do little more than pad the film, which could have been at least 15 minutes shorter.

While I’m no fan of Zach Galifianakis, or Ken Jeong for that matter, the film’s failings have nothing to do with the cast. Helms and Cooper are good, but they’re wasted by this director who is getting more credit than he deserves for the haplessly popular original Hangover.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never been a fan of director Todd Phillips or any of his films. The Hangover was funny, as was 2003’s Old School, but they weren’t particularly hilarious, while his other films are frankly just plain dumb, from Road Trip and Starsky & Hutch, to School for Scoundrels and Due Date.

My vote for The Hangover Part II is to skip it in theatres and save it for a rental. There’s nothing particularly “big screen” about it, and by the end I’m betting you’ll feel cheated by this empty rehashing of Todd Phillips’ one notable success story.

Kung Fu Panda 2
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen
Director: Jennifer Yuh

In the sequel from first-time director Jennifer Yuh, Po the Dragon Warrior, voiced by Jack Black once more, is living his dream and fighting alongside his friends, the Furious Five, when a new threat emerges that could overtake China and end the reign of kung fu.

Facing off against Lord Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman, Po and his friends–voiced by Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen–will also have to deal with a new powerful weapon known as gun powder.

Po has other troubles though as the sight of a symbol on an enemy brings on nightmares and troubled memories of his mother. The only answer, which will also guide him against the power of Lord Shen, will be to unravel his past.

Like the original, which was a hit among moviegoers and critics alike, Kung Fu Panda 2 looks like this weekend’s big hit with glowing reviews from most writers.

“What really makes the film work,” wrote Tom Long of the Detroit News, “is director Yuh’s sense of timing. She knows how to get in and out of a joke before beating it to death. A quick Pac-Man reference during a chase comes and goes, delighting without ever dragging.”

Roger Moore echoed those sentiments as well, adding in his review for the Orlando Sentinel that “Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel that delivers more heart than laughs, and is, if anything, more visually dazzling than the 2008 original film.”

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