This review is not going to appear in LGBT Weekly until next week, but I was so angry at the movie, I wanted to get it out there now. Also, I wanted to get out the uncut version, since it’s probably too long for the paper. Here it is:
The Hangover, Part 2
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Craig Mazin & Scot Armstrong & Todd Phillips
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis
Very, very rated R
At your local multiplex
A few weeks ago, I wrote a summer movie preview in these pages that expressed excitement about The Hangover Part 2 because The Hangover put its characters into some “pretty homosexually awkward situations” and Part 2 would probably only up the ante. And it did. Oh, boy, did it. My prescience should not be rewarded, because by upping the ante, Part 2 bypassed “more titillating” and landed squarely at “shocking and offensive.” While the casual racism, homophobia, and misogyny of the three leads in Part 1 were nearly irrelevant to a story that revolved around violent slapstick and silly sight gags, in Part 2, both the jokes and the plot are structured by a 21st century version of yellow peril, from vapid Asian stereotypes to the fear of Thai transsexuals.
The plot of Part 2 is basically the same as Part 1: Phil the ass (Bradley Cooper), Stu the nerd (Ed Helms), and Alan the nut (Zach Galifianakis) wake up from a night of pre-wedding debauchery, remember nothing, and cannot find the fourth person in their party. Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), an oddly effeminate crime lord with a thick Chinese accent and a penchant for hip-hop slang, is again at the center of the problem, and he’s again buck naked and crazy.
The main differences in Part 2 are that Las Vegas has been swapped for Bangkok, the baby Alan carried in Part 1 has been replaced with a smoking and drug-dealing monkey, and the person missing is not the groom but Teddy (Mason Lee), the brother of the bride. This time, Stu is the groom, and his bride-to-be is a beautiful Thai woman whose father thinks that Stu is the human equivalent of mushy rice. When Teddy is lost, Stu is convinced that he will lose his bride. (I’m not naming her or the actress, because like all of other women in The Hangover Part 2 and director Todd Phillips’s movies, she’s only relevant as a plot device.)
The bulk of the film focuses on Phil, Stu, and Alan’s quest to find Teddy, which takes them to a Buddhist monastery, a tattoo parlor, breakfast with Paul Giamatti, and on a physically improbable car chase. When the movie is using Jeong’s high-pitched one-liners, Galifianakis’s dead-pan non-sequiturs, and Helms’s almost acrobatic freak-outs as the sources for laughter, Part 2 earns its laughs. But too often the actors are reacting to the writers’ violent and mean-spirited plotting that is all explained by blaming Bangkok, as if the ancient, bustling Thai city and not the childish behavior of three jerks from the US caused the riot, amputation, and mistaken identity that are central to the story. I found myself laughing less at the movie’s humor than at my own nervous outrage.
SPOILER ALERT! For example, the trio ends up at a night club where, the night before, Stu had met and had sex with one of the dancers. When it is revealed that the dancer is a pre-op transsexual and had topped Stu, the dancer’s penis becomes Part 2’s equivalent of There’s Something About Mary’s hair gel. This is the centerpiece joke of the film, the one meant to be talked about the next day and the week to come. And it is based on the fear of gay sex, of transsexuals, of the mysterious, shifty Asian culture.
But wait, it gets worse. The second to last image in the film is Phil and Mr. Chow recreating, as a joke, the iconic, horrific Eddie Adams photo of a South Vietnamese officer executing a Viet Cong prisoner with a shot to the head. To say this is offensive is an understatement; it’s simply despicable.