Dear The Hangover Part II,
Let’s start off with something simple, shall we? The term ‘Part II’ would seem to claim that you are part of a continued narrative, which you are definitely not. The first Hangover was a humorous, self-contained story that had no need, no opening even, for a sequel. So how could you have reconciled this misnomer? Perhaps you could have gone for the simple Hangover 2. But even that would have been false, because you aren’t just a second Hangover, even though your every story beat and plot point is a carbon copy of the first.
No, you are more like Hangover Jr., a loud, crazy, immature and ultimately worthless successor to a much better film. You are such a massive, unrelenting disappointment in the shadow of your predecessor that you actually serve only to diminish the accomplishments of your fore-bearer. Actually, you should be called The Hangover’s Cancer, because you are a mutated, ugly, poisonous and ultimately fatal perversion of the first film.
How did you accomplish this seemingly impossible feat of retroactive patricide? Well I suppose a lot of the blame can be placed on the mere fact that you exist in the first place. As I said before, The Hangoverhad no opening or need for a sequel, and so you were always doomed to feel perfunctory, unnecessary, and even a bit cloying. You’re an obvious cash grab, born of opportunistic greed. But that could have been ok if you had even pretended to aspire to something more than slavish mimicry.
You see, your previous installment was a success because of two thing; the charming, relatablenature of the characters, and the device through which their night of debauchery was revealed to the viewer. We, as an audience, had never really seen a drug-and-booze addled comedy told in reverse. They mystery of where their missing friend was and the surprise that accompanied each discovered piece of evidence carried us along on a giddy raft of unpredictability. Anything they did could have been hilarious, all because it was so wildly out of left field.
You, though, don’t even try to recreate this sense of surprise and wonder. Instead, you copy almost each and every story point beat by beat, even down to the opening scene and the initial “wake up” sequence. Your narrative isn’t a mixed back of humorous surprises, but a self-conscious game of one-upmanship that only serves to show how desperate you are to recreate, on a wider scale, the manic success of your predecessor.
It is this tendency to go bigger that actually does the bulk of your destructive work. For one, your characters, which had previously been your strength, become a terrible detriment to you. In the first film, we as an audience connected with these flawed yet inherently good men. We appreciated that they never wanted to be in this situation, and only wanted to return to their old lives with their missing friend somehow intact. Now, though, you’ve turned the lot of them into a group of maladjusted, morally unconscionable children with no concept of cultural sensitivity, responsibility, or even a preservation instinct.
Phil, the previously rakish and charming alpha of your so-called “Wolf Pack” is now a petulant and whining bully who curses in a restaurant in front of his infant child and berates a group of monks for their beliefs even after he has kidnapped one of them. He has no concept of the danger and severity of his actions, and thus becomes not just unrelatable, but unbelievable. I don’t even know why you bother giving him a wife and child, because I literally could not choose either out of a line up. Stu, who is getting married this time, is no longer a put-upon dentist with an inherently good core, but instead becomes a broken, pitiful subjugate of all of those around him. Ultimately, his character ‘arc’ also turns him into a thoughtless, amoral coward.
The worse by far, though, is Allen. This character, who in the first film was a lovable, misguided child at heart, but also the most naively ‘good’ character of the bunch, has now been turned into a seething, conniving, downright evil monster. His naivete and desire for approval has turned into full on sociopathy, and while the last movie cast him as a lovable oaf striving for friendship, you cast him as a crazed fan who will kill to keep his idols to himself. By taking him in this broader, darker direction – while failing to make it funny at all – you become a kind of bromance Fatal Attraction. That his actions are forgiven by his compatriots only makes his and their new-found personalities all the more grating.
Finally, though, there is the fact that in your quest to top the stunts of the last film, you turn their night of forgotten mischief from one filled with embarrassing but ultimately harmless goofs into a massive pile of life-destroying misery. Marrying a prostitute with a heart of gold because your girlfriend at home is a bitch is funny and understandable, a catalyst for character change. Having sex with a transvestite on the eve of your marriage to a sweet, wonderful woman is cruel and raises all kinds of questions regarding what kind of human being you are. These questions, oddly enough, are brought up, but never dealt with in any real way.
Being stuck on a roof in the Nevada sun is uncomfortable but childishly amusing. Losing a finger and ruining your career aspirations is not. The consequences to these new pratfalls are intense, almost life threatening, and lead one to question whether these men deserve to be alive and happy at all. In the end, the effects this day will have on their lives is more depressing than funny.
Hangover Part II, you took every good thing about your predecessor and strangled it, smashed it, and drove it into the ground. You took characters we could love and turned them into morally challenged monsters.
You pushed the jokes too far and opened up far too many dark places with none of the skill required to turn them into comedy. You are a painful, infuriating disappointment, and I pray that this is the last we have seen of you or any of your spawn.
Brian J. Roan