Upon this film’s release, a journalist writing in the New York Times raised an interesting idea. What if The Hangover: Part II was actually the defining realisation of a new sub-category in the comedy genre? This genre could be appropriately titled ‘the unfunny comedy’. I would argue it goes further than this. The Hangover: Part II is a significant moment in American cinema, because it shows that we have now reached a time when racism, homophobia and misogyny can be perpetrated and celebrated in a mainstream box-office hit.
I didn’t much like 2009’s The Hangover, where three unlikable men wake up having lost their friend after a night of debauchery, but I could understand why some people did. The laughs were crude and silly but fairly tolerable. The movie did hint at an underlying vein of misogyny and homophobia, but overall it was just a rather patchy mess. This film is different. Whereas the first feature condemned the characters for their irresponsible antics, this sequel actively celebrates and revels in the debauched behaviour of the three leads. It actually attempts to convince us that these activities make them into better men.
The set-up: Stu, the down-to-earth dentist, is getting married. Not to the nagging girlfriend we were introduced to in the first film but to an American-Thai woman named…oh what’s her name….doesn’t matter, she’s a woman, she shouldn’t really be talking and wearing clothes anyway. Of course, Stu has invited to the wedding in Thailand his buddies from the first movie, which are made up of odd-man Alan (Zac Galifianakis) and belligerent school-teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper). Justin Bartha is also there somewhere but, just like in the first one, he doesn’t really do anything. As with before, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up without Bartha. But he’s safe, having breakfast at their hotel. The missing member of their party this time is Stu’s fiancée’s teenage brother, Teddy – although they do discover a part of him in a bowl of water: a severed finger.
The immature men soon realise they have not woken up in the right place. They are in the centre of Bangkok. And they find, under a blanket in the dusty hotel room, the eccentric gangster from Hangover 1, Mr Chow. He is just as unfunny as he was in the original.
Because the first film was so successful, the filmmakers clearly realised that to duplicate their success they have to redo the same story. Which they do, including the stolen tiger from Part 1 – except that it is now a stolen monkey. But the tiger belonged to convicted rapist Mike Tyson, so I was anticipating another well-known criminal to demand the return of the monkey. Gary Glitter, maybe? Or Joseph Fritzl? No such luck – he turns out to belong to a group of drug dealers. Shame.
The three guys stumble around Bangkok, looking for Teddy. As they go from one sordid location to another, we learn snippets of the previous night’s exploits. We learn that cocaine was involved. We also learn that Stu demanded a Tattoo (identical to Mike Tyson’s) to be inked on his face while he sheltered from a Police riot, which they had caused. The script writers’ pride and joy is that Stu has also received unprotected anal sex from a transsexual lap-dancing prostitute. He is disgusted by this, but of course this is because he has had sex with a man (just like..y’know…homos do), not because he has cheated on his fiancée or the obvious risk of HIV or AIDS.
Within the first two minutes of the first film, we were treated to a joke that invited the audience to laugh at gay people. This second instalment doesn’t only ask us to laugh at gay people. It asks us to be sickened by them. The word ‘gay’ is repeatedly used as an insult, or to describe something nasty. The overall message of the film is that homosexuality should be ridiculed as often as possible. It’s hard to believe this was made in the twenty-first century.
The Hangover: Part II actually bears a close resemblance to Eli Roth’s Hostel and Sex and the City 2. These films share Hangover 2’s two most repugnant faults: jokes at the expense of homosexuals, and virulent racism. Because our three guys are in Bangkok, a place that falls into the category of ‘Not America’, obviously all the locals must be crazy and violent. They are referred to by the blanket term ‘Asians’, and all of these ‘Asians’ are clearly the enemy. For a while I wondered if I was watching the directorial debut of Nick Griffin.
I may still have been able to write something positive about the film if it had made me laugh. However, as was the case with director Todd Phillips’ last movie Due Date, I’m not inclined to find abusive and nasty behaviour hilarious. I must make it very clear that I am not criticising the genre of the ‘crude comedy’. As I have said before, it can be done well. Dude Where’s My Car, American Pie, Role Models. There are many examples. But this is not one of them. This picture is for the most part incredibly boring. When it’s not sending its viewers to sleep, it delights in cruelty and bigotry.
So that the film can really end on a high note, convicted rapist Mike Tyson is brought back to do an awful song and dance. We get to see the three lead men cheering the rapist as he grooves across the stage. It made me feel slightly sick.
We live in a time when those who speak out against this vile rubbish are branded ‘moralists’, ‘uncool’ and ‘out of touch’. But I would much rather be counted as a moralist than join hands with those who believe racism is fine, homophobia is cool and convicted rapists are a good laugh. In the case of this film it really does just come down to this question: do you stand for a) decency, or b) hate, discrimination and sleaze. If the answer is a), you better stay clear of The Hangover: Part II. If the answer is b), book your tickets now – you’re in for an absolute treat.
Good: For the first time, I have nothing to write here.