Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Night in Bangkok

For all the business The Hangover Part II has raked in, there are those who are less than enamored with the film.  (Felix Vasquez, Jr. of Cinema Crazed has one of the best reviews of the film, positive or negative, that I've read.)  The criticisms lodged at it range from the fact that it isn't funny to its level of depravity, and then there is the biggest, most damning criticism:  It's just like the first film.

I liked the first film.  I liked it a lot, actually.  I feel like it worked on many different levels, including the realm of the surreal absurd that I tend to be drawn to when I look to see a comedy.  The sequel is a clone of its father, so if you didn't like the original you aren't going to be swayed by this one.  (Of course, if you didn't like the original there is no reason to watch the sequel unless it were to torture yourself.)  My enjoyment of The Hangover is the exact reason why I liked the latest installment (and, truthfully, I hope it's the last) of this cultural juggernaut.

I wasn't expecting a bold, new direction.  I wasn't expecting a sophisticated comedy.  I was expecting it to be even more over the top and was hoping it would be even more surreal (it wasn't, but Alan, played by Zack Galifianakis, was up to par in his ability to tap into what makes Andy Kaufman so interesting to me).  If the film did a radical departure from what made the original so appealing it would only disappoint people.  Director Todd Phillips and the multiple writers had to do was make a choice.  Would they go back and make the same movie and please all the fans, or would they stray so far from the original that it could be another movie all together?  People like these characters.  (I actually like the characters more than the situations they find themselves in.)  People want to see them struggle with insanity.  It's why they liked the original, and it is why many sequels are essentially the same movie with different trappings.  (Sometimes not even that.)

The criticisms lodged at The Hangover Part II are fair and accurate for the most part.  They, like the inevitable sequels, are expected, however.  When dealing with something like this film, the only thing that really matters is: Did it set out to do what the cast and crew intended?  In the case here, the film's goal was to make the fans of the original laugh.  There was nothing there that said the film was trying to win over a new crowd.  When you are that successful the first time around there is really no need to try.  In that sense, it succeeded.  For those looking for something wildly original and different, well, there was no reason to see the film in the first place.  Nothing about it even indicated that it would be a departure.

Are the criticisms lobbed at the film as lazy as the film itself?  Yes and no.  No film is above criticism.  It's the critic's job to point out what he or she likes or dislikes about a film.  In this case, however, it was too easy.  It was just as easy, in fact, as it was for the filmmakers to come to the conclusion not to change a thing about the original film when going back to the mine.  It looks like everyone played the proper role here and didn't deviate from the script.  Isn't that what sequels are all about?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.  I suggest reading Vasquez, Jr.'s piece, as it is quite good and he has a great site.  I did not get a press pass to review this film, and nor would I accept one.

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