Remember Die Hard 2? Exactly one year after the events of the first Die Hard, John McClane has another Christmas Eve ruined by a terrorist attack, a situation once again dealt with incompetently by the local police department, location security (an airport rather an L.A. highrise) and even the military. No, only our rogue cop hero can ultimately save the day as he runs about muttering things like, "How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?" Die Hard 2, with its almost supernatural levels of self-awareness, became what was perhaps the first Brechtian action film.
Die Hard 2's not a bad flick, but it sure would've been easier to swallow if the first Die Hard had never happened. And the same holds true, over 20 years later, with The Hangover Part II, a sequel that easily dethrones John McClane's second misadventure in the self-awareness department... though it may add on the layer that it's aware that we're aware that it's aware of itself. And that'll actually make sense when you watch it.
Really, if you liked the first Hangover, then, uh, I guess you'll like the second...? I mean, in theory, that should hold true, 'cause it's basically the exact same movie, except Vegas is now Bangkok, and the missing groom-to-be is now the missing bride-to-be's brother, and the baby is now a chain-smoking, drug-running monkey, and... you get the idea. And yeah, there's plenty of "I can't believe this is happening again!" going on -- it almost feels like we, the audience, are supposed to respond with, "I know, it's crazy!" during these moments.
Actually, The Hangover Part II is such a cut-and-paste copy of its predecessor that you can't help but wonder if its very existence is supposed to be the movie's biggest joke. The Hangover is the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, and so of course the pressure was on to not only make a sequel but to make it, you know, better and even funnier than the original. But it's as if director Todd Phillips knew that the original movie was so fresh and unique that the only way to create a companion piece was to recreate pretty much the same situation and its various consequences, almost beat for beat. And that, in itself, is the biggest joke of all... not to mention a possible "Fu** You" to both the studio (and perhaps the audience as well).
No matter. The Hangover Part II, whatever the circumstances of its puzzling existence might be, is a dark, dangerous and often hilarious romp, as Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a sleazy Bangkok hotel room after what was supposed to be "just one beer" to celebrate Stu's impending nuptials to Lauren (Jamie Chung), forced to once again put together the pieces of what happened the night before. Mayhem ensues, laughs are had.
The sequel is not without its problems. The man-child Alan takes more of a front and center position for this adventure, and he's (imagine this) about ten times more idiotic and intolerable this time around -- there hasn't been a character this enraging in a comedy since Vince Vaughn's endlessly yammering Ricky in Made (2001). Ken Jeong's grating con man Mr. Chow also inexplicably gets more screen time, despite pretty much the entire world agreeing that he was the worst part about the original Hangover. And we really didn't need Mike Tyson to show up again, despite the fact that his scene is actually pretty funny.
But whatever. To criticize a movie this blatantly self-aware is probably all part of the gag. So kick back and watch these fools make a ridiculous situation even worse... again.