UGLY AMERICANS ABROAD
> CRUDE ‘HANGOVER II’ MORE OBNOXIOUS, LESS CLEVER THAN FIRST
★★✩✩ 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
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