Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bangkok Blues, or "Well, it's better than Jewel of the Nile."

Two nights in Bangkok… much tougher than one night!

The Wolfpack is back, only missing matching Three-Wolf Moon t-shirts to complete the iconography. Seriously, it would’ve made the odd feeling of prosaic debauchery gel just that much more in its prescient self-referentialism.

Phil, Stu and Alan have returned to cluelessly meander through a sin-filled city in search of a lost comrade. This time Bangkok is the city of devils and the lost comrade is Stu’s future brother-in-law. Seems that, since we left them at Doug’s wedding, Stu (Ed Helms) has ditched the hooker (now absent, Heather Graham) and settled down to become engaged to smoking hot Lauren (Jamie Chung) whom we last saw kicking CGI butt in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch earlier this year (I love a gal who can pilot a mech). Lauren is the daughter of a successful and son-obsessed Thai businessman who does not approve of Stu (going so far as to compare him to mushy rice porridge in his toast) and her brother (played by newcomer Mason Lee) immediately draws the ire of petulant man-child Alan, who thinks young Teddy is trying to horn in on his Wolfpack.

Cue a “one-last-night-being-a-bachelor drink” scene, where Phil and Stu cautiously only drink from sealed bottles of beer (and rightly so, methinks) and we go to the familiar jump cut to the Wolfpack waking up in total disarray minus one head of hair, plus one face tattoo, and minus one Teddy.

Well… minus most of one Teddy.

Somehow the trio have done it again, managed to blackout an entire night of vice and lose 98.7% of a person in the process. What follows is the (some might say) formulaic adventure across Bangkok’s seedy underbelly of strip clubs, tattoo parlors and… monasteries?

Hangover 2 definitely follows almost beat for beat the same pattern as its predecessor, from opening conflict to zigzagging scavenger hunt… even to Stu’s “spontaneous” one-man band performance of a song chronicling their predicament. For the discerning movie-goer looking for something new, they will be disappointed as the sequel is most definitely “Same-S#!t, Different Day”… or movie as it were. But in that lie the movie’s strengths.

The Hangover 2 is definitely comedy gold, going from scene to scene with plenty to take your mind off of the fact that these three men are terrible people when drunk to have gotten themselves in such a situation… again. The drug dealing monkey helps, taking the place of the baby this time around, and plenty of deliberate touches are brilliant… such as in the case of Alan’s meditative breakthrough where we see the night from his perspective (where he and the group are literally 12-year-old boys).

The cameos are hit or miss this time around, though. Paul Giamatti as the crime-boss Kingsley is great, channeling the menace that made me love him in Shoot’em Up, and Jeffery Tambor return’s as Alan’s dad for a brief, but solid moment in the beginning. Strangely, the lead up to the movie was fraught with scandal with the leak that Mel Gibson would attempt to overcome his recent anti-Semitism to play the tattoo artist. Once word got out, though, Mel was out… with Liam Neeson supposed to take up the role. Then Liam dropped out, to be replaced by… Nick Cassevetes?

Um… okay?

Still, Hangover 2 is great for those fleeting moments of comedic brilliance (“What is that? A mushroom?”) and the cultural tidbits that one gleans from the background (Orange Fanta in a bag!). And, while I find it hard to believe that these guys could actually survive the nights they blackout through and still remain friends, even with all the intense male bonding of crisis, they manage to take a “Same-S#!t, Different Day” movie and make it golden.

I highly recommend seeing The Hangover 2, even if you wait for video… but, trust me, this is one movie where you’re glad to be in a theater surrounded by people. Half the fun for me was listening to folk’s reactions (especially the weird hotel mushroom and the strip club dressing room scenes).

Also – CHOW! Brother truckin CHOW!

-Nick Michael

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