Racist, homophobic and devoid of laughs. It’s The Hangover: Part II ★☆☆☆☆

4

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.

Bad: Everything.

 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

4 Comments

  1. avatar
    Andrew Baber on

    I think this review is pretty accurate on the whole. I wouldn’t have given it as low as 1 because there were some parts that made me laugh. My problem with this film was that they copied the formula of the first almost minute-by-minute, as you point out during the review. I also couldn’t comprehend how Teddy’s Dad – who hates everything about Stu – decides at the end he’s a great guy BECAUSE he has a mental side that caused his gifted son to loose one of his fingers. It was a complete failure of an ending. I disagree with your analysis of the first film, though. The first had everything that this second one desperately needed, camaraderie between the three leads, great gags and genuine warmth towards Alan, as a guy without any previous friends. It was also much more coherent and less reliant on using shock-gags such as the transsexual episode. When I left the cinema everyone was saying how it was “better than the first”, whilst in actual fact – even though it was essentially the same film – it was nowhere near as good.

  2. avatar
    Dhanesh Patel on

    This is a sad review.

    Homophobia – This film is not homophobic. Most straight men would be disgusted to find out they had sex with a man. Why is this homophobic? Just because some men are attracted to men, all other men should be too? Shocking.

    Racist – No one is offended by the term “Asians”. Not even Asians. Asians even make racist jokes occasionally. That’s the thing about jokes, you’re not supposed to take them seriously.

    • avatar

      I would first like to thank Andrew Baber for his comment. I too had a problem with Teddy’s dad deciding to like his son-in-law because he risked his son’s life and took him on a trip that caused him to lose his finger. I didn’t really like the first film, but at least the men were condemned and punished for their antics.

      In answer to Dhanesh – I was wondering if you would comment on my review of The Hangover: Part II, since we have history with the movies of Todd Phillips. I’m afraid I can do nothing more here than say I disagree with you on both points. The film is homophobic. It isn’t just the tragically ill-judged gag involving the transsexual prostitute (although it is curious how the two other issues, adultery and the risk of HIV AIDS are passed over in favour of homophobic repulsion), but the nasty undercurrent of bigotry-fuelled hate running throughout the film. The word gay is persistently used in a derogatory way (something which the first also movie enjoyed doing), and the cumulative effect is, as I said in the review, to portray homosexuality as negative and repellent. This is a sad and depressing reminder that discrimination is still alive and present in modern Hollywood.

      In my opinion, the film is racist. I am pleased you feel confident enough to speak for all of the Asian population of the globe, but I find the film’s ignorant and lazy blanket-labelling of people as ‘Asians’ troubling. One could argue, I suppose, that this harks back to Hollywood’s long-running xenophobia and racism, where the rest of the world is ‘the other’ and the right way of life is ‘the American way’. The smug, racial superiority of the film leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

      I apologise for sticking to my usual formula, but once again, as I did when defending my Due Date review, I shall attempt to show that I am far from being the only person who has shown concern on the subject of the film’s horribly racist and homophobic sensibilities. First I would like to cite Mark Kermode’s review on BBC Radio 5 (which can be viewed here http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markkermode/2011/05/5_live_review_-_the_hangover_p.html). He chastises the film for being ‘profoundly racist’, and for possessing a ‘rampant strain of homophobia running all the way through the film’. In The Times around the film’s release the journalist Kate Muir highlighted the film’s ‘undercurrent of racism’. Nigel Floyd in Time Out said: ‘The script’s homophobia and racial stereotyping leave a sour aftertaste’. The Daily Mail’s critic Christopher Tookey, who dubbed the film ‘the worst sequel of all time’ also criticised it for its ‘toe-curlingly racist view of the non-American world’ (I know one may argue it’s a bit rich the Daily Mail picking up a film for racism, but I’d claim that Chris is one of the non-bigoted writers who work for the paper). Indeed, Tookey awarded the first Hangover film a 9/10 verdict.

      I could go on, but I think I’ve made it clear that, while I respect your opinion Dhanesh, I am not alone in noticing the film’s racism and homophobia.

      Even if the film celebrated people of different cultures and featured sympathetic characters of various sexual orientations, I would still find it very hard to like the film as it delights in glorifying and hero-worshipping a convicted rapist.

      I was prepared to be branded as ‘sad’, moralistic and the like when I wrote this review. As I said, I believe it is important that people who are opposed to the nastiness this movie perpetrates take a stand and make it clear that it is unacceptable. It may be unfashionable to do so, but I stand firm in my dislike of hate and discrimination.

      Many thanks for your comment (and thanks again to Andrew for your message!)

      All the best,

      Barnaby.

      P.S. The unexpurgated version of my Hangover: Part II review is available to read on my website, http://www.waltermedia.co.uk

  3. avatar
    Dhanesh Patel on

    I wasn’t trying to speak for all Asians. Your point is essentially that because some Asians may be offended by the humour in the film, it is inherently racist. If all comedy was deemed “bad” because it might offend someone it wouldn’t even exist. This reminds me of the hand-wringing over “Come Fly With Me”, especially in the Guardian. Some terribly sensitive journalists worrying that, you know, those poor Asian people might be offended by the content of the jokes and therefore it was racist. It wasn’t, and loads of Asian people I know found that series funny (not me personally but there you go). The sooner do-gooder journalists realize that minority groups aren’t children who can’t bear to be offended, the better.

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