UGLY AMER­I­CANS ABROAD

> CRUDE ‘HANG­OVER II’ MORE OB­NOX­IOUS, LESS CLEVER THAN FIRST

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Go See - / bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

★★✩✩ treated this way? Does the monk’s Asian­ness make him an ac­cept­able ob­ject or mirth? Or is it his “funny” for­eign re­li­gion that de­val­ues him?

A megahit — es­pe­cially for an R-rated com­edy — that grossed close to $280 mil­lion at the U.S./Canada box of­fice in 2009, “The Hang­over” was an in­ten­tion­ally shock­ing film with a ge­nius premise, a mys­tery hook and dead­line in­ten­sity, as lik­able den­tist Stu (Ed Helms), devil-may-care mar­ried man Phil (Bradley Cooper) and weirdo cousin Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a trashed Las Ve­gas ho­tel with no mem­ory of the bach­e­lor-party night be­fore and no clue to the where­abouts of the bride­groom (Justin Bartha), whose wed­ding is only hours away.

Des­ig­nated the “Wolf­pack” by the ea­ger-for-ac­cep­tance Alan, the group re­traces its steps down a rab­bithole of reck­less and crim­i­nal be­hav­ior, where they en­counter Mike Tyson, a wacky Korean gang­ster (Ken Jeong) and a hooker with a heart of gold (Heather Graham), whose af­fec­tion en­cour­ages Stu to ditch his nag­ging long­time girl­friend. The cliché sex­ism of this par­tic­u­lar male fan­tasy — opin­ion­ated woman bad; happy hooker good — drew some crit­i­cism, as did the movie’s cal­cu­lated trans­gres­sive­ness and smug attitude, but over­all, “The Hang­over” was in­ven­tive and funny enough that most

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re­view­ers (my­self in­cluded) were will­ing to over­look its faults.

Todd Phillips to those re­view­ers to­day: You’ve been punk’d!

En­cour­aged by the ear­lier film’s re­ceipts, “The Hang­over Part II” re­peats the for­mula of its pre­de­ces­sor, but ups the ob­nox­ious­ness to be­come per­haps the first Hol­ly­wood “tor­ture porn” slap­stick com­edy — a movie with gags in­tended to make the viewer gag, as when Stu is splat­tered with pig’s blood.

Im­me­di­ately en­dors­ing the no­tion that women are ex­pend­able and in­ter­change­able, the se­quel jet­ti­sons Heather Graham so that Stu can be en­gaged to a wealthy, sup­port­ive and ap­par­ently not very choosy Thai beauty, played by Jamie Chung. This pro­vides the ex­cuse for the “Wolf­pack” to travel to Thai­land, a coun­try that — with the ex­cep­tion of the sea­side wed­ding re­sort, where Phil is thrilled to find Amer­i­can beer — is de­picted as so dirty, dan­ger­ous and dis­gust­ing that even the pros­ti­tutes of the in­fa­mous Pat­pong sex district are, in the film’s view, mon­sters.

Like hor­ror and disas­ter films, “The Hang­over” movies ap­peal to a dark de­sire for chaos and an­ni­hi­la­tion; for the mun­dane to be re­placed by the in­cred­i­ble; for the bur­dens of civ­i­liza­tion and moral be­hav­ior to be sus­pended by ex­treme cir­cum­stances, whether the rea­son is a zom­bie apoca­lypse, an earth­quake or a “roofie” in a drink. Un­for­tu­nately, in “The Hang­over Part II,” the char­ac­ters bat­tling through the chaos seem more like bul­lies than heroes. Check it out, world: Amer­i­cans over­seas, run­ning roughshod over the lo­cals, wreck­ing the place, and re­turn­ing home to laugh about it.

— John Bei­fuss, 529-2394

Melinda Sue Gor­don/Warner Bros. Pic­tures

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