The 2009 movie The Hangover was a howdunit. The lads, celebrating in Las Vegas before a wedding, woke up in various states of disrepair and had to figure out how they got there.
The film was so massively successful, both in the theatres and on DVD, that director Todd Phillips used the same template in The Hangover Part II (2011). The first words spoken by a dishevelled Phil (Bradley Cooper) as he phones home from Bangkok are, “It happened again.” In a flashback to a week earlier, Stu the dentist (Ed Helms), who lost a tooth in the earlier film, says, “I’m still putting the broken pieces of my psyche back together again.”
Trouble is, the movie must turn cartwheels to get past an inconvenient plot point. It makes no sense that, after the mayhem caused in the first movie by loose cannon Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Stu would invite him to Stu’s wedding in Thailand. But the course of the movie depends upon it, so, in a desperate flutter of screenwriting, Stu is talked into inviting Alan.
From that moment on, it’s a matter of connecting the dots. Stu wakes up in a Bangkok hotel room with a Mike Tyson-like tattoo on his face. Alan’s head has been shaved. Teddy, the younger brother of Stu’s bride-to-be, is missing, but one of his fingers has stayed behind in a puddle of water. Ken Jeong reappears as the wacky criminal, Mr. Chow. And there’s a capuchin monkey named Crystal, a male played by a female, as we learn from a bonus feature.
Although billed as a comedy, the movie is closer most of the time to an action drama. The music is dark – a bit of swamp rock here, a lament there, a reminder in rap that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Amusement comes from offbeat asides, as when the boys dispose of a body by stuffing it into an ice machine and Alan offhandedly says, with no further explanation, “Feet first. I’ve done this before.”
The bonus features don’t add up to much. A 24-minute mock documentary on the film is painfully self-conscious. A tour of Hong Kong by Jeong in character as Chow is three minutes of filler. The only value comes in a seven-minute making-of segment that offers on-set glimpses of the actors as they improvise lines of dialogue.
For those who wish to bypass everything but the fights and chases, there is a 40-second recapitulation of action highlights. Look for the ice machine.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
Project Nim (2011) The chimpanzee Nim – short for Nim Chimpsky, a play on linguist Noam Chomsky – was removed from his mother and raised for years in a human family to see how well he could communicate. As documentary director James Marsh (2008’s Man on Wire) tells it, after the experiment ended Nim faced a long, Dickensian series of ups and downs. Might make an instructive double bill with Rise of Planet of the Apes, being released on DVD and Blu-ray next week.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) Director Tsui Hark, whose prodigious output includes the delightful 1986 genre mash-up Peking Opera Blues, provides another romp here, set in seventh-century China. Powerful empress Wu Zetian releases detective Dee Renjie (Andy Lau) from prison so he can solve the murders of experts building a giant model of Buddha. That’s the jumping-off point – literally, since this is a film of jumping, soaring (choreographed by Sammo Hung, a veteran of Hong Kong films) and testing the limits of magic. The Blu-ray (vivendient.com) includes a making-of segment and a look at the stunts and weapons.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011) Isn’t it always the way? You wake up with amnesia in a western, as Daniel Craig does, and no sooner have you butted heads with a cowboy (Harrison Ford) than space aliens attack. I hope I haven’t given anything away. Bonus features include a feature-length audio commentary by director Jon Favreau.
The Help (2011) Set in Jackson, Miss., in 1963, the film of Kathryn Stockett’s book tells of a white writer (Emma Stone as Skeeter) who raises the hackles of other white women (especially Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly) by encouraging their black domestic servants (notably Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny) to tell their side of an oppressive story. The Blu-ray offers a making-of feature and “a tribute to the maids of Mississippi.”
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season (2002-03) This is the one where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards run a rock-’n’-roll camp and Homer moves in with two gay roommates. As ever, the 22-episode collection is full of bonus features, including a tribute to the show’s 300th episode. What do you mean, you didn’t send a gift? After all they’ve done for you?