Hair of the dog

The crazy crew that cut loose in Las Ve­gas has been un­leashed for more mon­key busi­ness in Bangkok, writes James Wigney

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - THE HANG­OVER: PART 2 Opens Thurs­day Vil­lage Cin­e­mas

IT’S a steam­ing hot day in An­cient Siam, a recre­ated monastery on the out­skirts of Bangkok. Through large red gates, three di­shev­elled men in­trude on the seren­ity of the mock Bud­dhist tem­ple.

One of them is sport­ing de­signer shades, an­other has a Maori tat­too and an air of be­wil­dered des­per­a­tion. The third has a shaved head and a bushy beard, which make him look mildly in­sane, and is push­ing an an­cient monk in a wheel­chair. And a mon­key.

A few min­utes later they are cop­ping a beat­ing with a bam­boo cane as pro­fan­i­ties and shrieks of pain cut through the muggy air. Wel­come to the weird and won­der­ful world of the Hang­over: Part 2.

The di­rec­tor yells ‘‘ cut’’ and one of the fig­ures am­bles over to a wait­ing group of jour­nal­ists who have jet­ted in to get a sneak peek at one of the most an­tic­i­pated films of the year.

It’s Ed Helms ( The Of­fice), who plays up­tight den­tist Stu, the vic­tim of the fiercest pun­ish­ment in the pre­vi­ous scene.

Af­ter mys­te­ri­ously los­ing his tooth in the first film, his face is now half cov­ered by a tat­too that looks sus­pi­ciously like that worn by Mike Tyson. He gin­gerly lifts his shirt to re­veal some rather an­gry look­ing welts on ei­ther side of a strate­gi­cally placed pad.

‘‘ This is what I do for my craft,’’ he says with a grin. ‘‘ It doesn’t hurt at all un­less he misses – then it hurts a bit.’’

It’s all in a day’s work though and Helms – like his co-stars Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis ( all pic­tured) – looks like he is hav­ing the time of his life.

Un­der the watch­ful gaze of di­rec­tor Todd Phillips, the mood on the set is buoy­ant, with ev­ery­one con­fi­dent they are on to an­other win­ner.

The first Hang­over film, re­leased in 2009, raked in more than $ 450 mil­lion world­wide to be­come the high­est earn­ing R-rated com­edy and won a Golden Globe for best film to boot.

The story fol­lowed a stag party gone wrong as three friends – hen­pecked Stu, abra­sive al­pha male Phil ( Cooper) and wacky man-child Alan ( Galifianakis) – combed Las Ve­gas look­ing for the miss­ing groom, Doug ( Justin Bartha). So im­pressed was the stu­dio with an early cut of the first film that a se­quel was de­manded even be­fore it was re­leased.

Con­fi­dent in Phillips’s judg­ment, Warner Brothers left the di­rec­tor to his own de­vices.

The big­gest ques­tion was how to top some­thing that was al­ready so over the top? For the di­rec­tor, the lo­ca­tion was the key con­sid­er­a­tion.

He con­sid­ered Las Ve­gas to be the fourth char­ac­ter in the orig­i­nal and needed an­other city that would in­stantly evoke an even stronger re­ac­tion in au­di­ences.

‘‘ Peo­ple have an im­age that is con­jured up when you say Las Ve­gas,’’ says Phillips dur­ing a break from shoot­ing.

‘‘ There are very few cities that when you say the word it means some­thing. But Bangkok makes you think of some­thing. There is a mys­tery to it and a le­gend to it and that’s what Ve­gas had.’’

For the Hang­over: Part 2, the lads head to an ex­otic Thai re­sort for Stu’s wed­ding.

Hav­ing learnt their les­son in Ve­gas, a buck’s party is off the agenda. But things still go awry and they wake up in a de­crepit ho­tel room with­out Teddy, the younger brother of the bride.

The hap­less trio has to re­trace their steps – con­fronting an­i­mals, gang­sters, car chases and old friends – to fill in the mem­ory gaps.

If that sounds a lit­tle like deja vu then up to a point it is, with plenty of sly nods to the first film. But Cooper, un­der­min­ing his heart-throb sta­tus by spit­ting chew­ing to­bacco into a plas­tic bot­tle, says they have def­i­nitely upped the ante.

‘‘ The first one felt so right be­cause we were mak­ing each other laugh the whole movie and that hasn’t stopped,’’ he says.

‘‘ The dif­fer­ence I have no­ticed so far is that it’s tak­ing it to an­other level; it’s a big­ger movie.

‘‘ It’s the same for­mula on a grander scale, which is what I would want to see these guys do­ing.’’

The three leads gen­uinely seem to like each other. They share an easy rap­port on set and Helms says they dine to­gether most nights af­ter shoot­ing.

‘‘ It’s re­ally com­fort­able and fun and it’s al­most like re­turn­ing to sum­mer camp,’’ Galifianakis says.

Cooper, who thanks to roles in The A-Team and Lim­it­less has be­come one of Hol­ly­wood’s most in-de­mand ac­tors, agrees: ‘‘ It’s ef­fort­less and all you could hope to achieve in terms of a work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We all hit the jack­pot and we felt that way on the first one.’’

Cooper ad­mits the suc­cess of the first film took him by sur­prise but he didn’t quite re­alise how far it had wormed its way into the pub­lic psy­che un­til strangers started quot­ing his most fa­mous lines back to him.

‘‘ Ed Helms emailed us a link dur­ing a ten­nis match at the Aus­tralian Open,’’ he says. ‘‘ It was silent and the per­son was about to serve and in the au­di­ence you hear ‘ pag­ing Dr Fag­got’. Ev­ery­one started laugh­ing, so we fig­ured it must be catch­ing on.’’

Galifianakis had been work­ing in film, TV and stand-up com­edy for more than a decade, but his odd­ball Alan took him to an­other level, lead­ing to roles in Din­ner For Sch­mucks ( with Steve Carell), Due Date ( Robert Downey Jr) and now Tim and Eric’s Bil­lion Dol­lar Movie ( star­ring Will Fer­rell).

Helms says his ro­tund co-star has the quick­est wit he has ever en­coun­tered, but Galifianakis reck­ons he strug­gles with peo­ple who can’t sep­a­rate his comic per­sona from re­al­ity.

‘‘ It’s of­fen­sive to me that I just show up and peo­ple laugh,’’ he says, dead­pan.

‘‘ It’s a bur­den – I have to live with it in life too. At both my brother’s and sis­ter’s wed­dings – not that they mar­ried each other – I gave toasts and got choked up and started cry­ing and 400 wed­ding guests started laugh­ing. To have peo­ple laugh­ing while you are cry­ing is a re­ally weird emo­tion in­side.’’

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