Few films have been met with such anticipation as The Hangover Part II. The first one was one of my favorite comedies, earning a rating of A-. I loved the fact that there was a logic to the film. I loved the fact that the characters were merely clueless and given to irresponsible behavior. I loved the fact that at the end, there was a sense of redemption to their lunatic journey.
That I can't say for The Hangover Part II. As I stated, I thought it one of the meanest, cruelest, most sadistic films this year. All this time I thought The Green Hornet was going to be my Worst Film of 2011. At the end of The Hangover Part II, I found a new front-runner.
I failed to find the humor that everyone else around me found. I don't understand where the people around me found things to laugh at. Let's consider the one point that troubled me more than anything about the 'humor' in The Hangover Part II: the relationship between Alan and Teddy.
First, a little background. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is the brother-in-law of Doug (Justin Bartha), who is one of Stu's (Ed Helms) best friends. It was Alan who plied himself, Doug, Stu, and Doug & Stu's friend Phil (Bradley Cooper) with rohypnol, whose adverse effects caused the group to black out and lose Doug. It was made clear that Alan did this in the mistaken belief that he was putting Ecstasy into their drinks and that he meant it as a way to make their night more exciting. In short, it was done not out of maliciousness but out of a sincere desire to increase their fun.
In The Hangover Part II, Alan does the same thing, but this time there's a wide difference. While not stated explicitly, it's clear that Alan has a wild and irrational hostility towards Teddy, who is a sixteen year old and Stu's fiancee's brother. In his behavior towards Teddy it's clear Alan resents Teddy's presence within his imagined "Wolfpack" (Alan, Doug, Stu, and Phil). This is worth examining closely. Alan's age is never given in The Hangover or The Hangover Part II, so I'm going to use Galifianakis' real age.
We have a situation where a 41-year-old man is psychotically obsessed with a burning hatred a 16-year-old boy he barely knows. It was such an irrational, pathological hatred that I made a note of it twice. Alan is old enough to be Teddy's father, and by everything we've seen in The Hangover Alan should have been thrilled to have another member to his Wolf Pack. However, this isn't the reaction he has. Instead, he believes Teddy's presence among the adults in age only is so wrong he does what in normal circumstances would be considered evil.
Again, note: I am referring to a man twenty-five years his senior. Alan decides to lace marshmallows with muscle relaxants and ADHD medication to get rid of Teddy. In short, he isn't putting something in them to ensure Teddy and everyone else has a good time. He's putting something in them to cause physical harm. In short, Alan appears to have no problem attempting to murder Teddy for no reason other than the fact he has convinced himself Teddy is going to come between Alan and his "Wolf Pack".
There is nothing endearing or sweet and I argue comedic about one of the main characters attempting to do physical harm perhaps even murder a minor. Since Alan was fully aware of his actions, he cannot be considered clinically insane. This sort of behavior is downright evil, vicious, cruel, monstrous. Where is the humor in all that? Why did the audience think doing physical harm to a minor is the source for comedy.
This troubled me greatly. Alan in the first film was odd but endearing. He was endearing because we knew he meant no harm and that he was almost an innocent, unaware how his actions had terrible repercussions. Here, he has no excuse: he knew what he was doing, though it's open to debate as to whether or not he knew it was morally wrong.
To my mind, there is a darkness, a heartless aspect to Alan that made his character rather despicable, not endearing.
I was also troubled with the severing of Teddy's finger. Again, let me remind you, we're dealing with a minor. It boggles my mind the idea that finding a finger of a minor is a source of comedy. I can't laugh at something so cruel. It was just so horrifying to consider our characters don't seem all that concerned that this poor kid has been maimed, and that his skills as a doctor and cellist, which I figure would both require all his fingers, will be permanently affected.
I still can't get it around my head that Teddy, at the end, is all right with his disfigurement. It's as though it doesn't matter that he has nine fingers, and that his brother-in-law was partially responsible for it: it's cool with him. Even more bizarrely, it's cool with both Stu's fiancee and Teddy's parents. After all he put his family through, I would have shot Stu right then and there, then blamed Alan's medication.
What is it with the audience's desire to draw laughter out of deliberate cruelty towards a minor? I can't laugh at how horrible these people are, and how disinterested they are in the fact that a kid's life has been severely damaged by their actions. What does it say about us, the viewer, that we can laugh about something so vile and unpleasant like causing injury to a minor?
There is a wide difference between someone slipping on a banana peel and someone getting his finger cut off. Things have to be put in context, and here, the context is suppose to be humor but it only ends up in barbarity.
Even worse, if I may digress, is the basic irresponsibility of adults taking children under thirteen to films like The Hangover Part II. An adult should know what kind of film this is, so if any of you parents can explain to me why a film like The Hangover Part II or The Hangover itself is good family viewing I would appreciate it.
I challenge you to justify bringing children to films like these, full of drug use (one point of The Hangover Part II is that these adults got Teddy both drunk and introduced him to cocaine use: anyone hear of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor?) and penises in full view. Hollywood does make films targeted at minors (Kung Fu Panda 2, though I can't vouch for how good it is), so what would possess you to bring children to this?
I am of the mind that movie theaters are not babysitters: you can't bring children to films you want to see merely because you are too cheap to hire a babysitter or can't fathom the idea of leaving the little ones with someone else for one night. Trust me: it is cheaper to hire someone to watch your kids for four hours than in buying the tickets, the popcorn, the sodas, and any other snacks the little ones may desire.
I digress that this odd habit of bringing children to adult-targeted films is one factor in contributing to minors behaving badly towards their parents and total strangers. I also think that it contributes to the dumbing down of Americans in general: where people just appear incapable of exercising common sense when dealing with their children. Some things are appropriate for adults, some for children, but the odd thing of having adults put their own needs and pleasures above those of their children is a permanent puzzle to me. I tire of repeating this: don't take your children to R-rated films, no matter how much you may like it, no matter how much they beg. You are the adult, you are the responsible one, and you need to be in charge.
There's another aspect of The Hangover Part II that went beyond the pale for me. I don't know why people thought the following line was funny: "Solid rack for an Asian". This was said by Phil to Stu (to his face) in regards to Stu's fiancee. This is racist humor, and I find nothing amusing in it. Granted, a case can be made that we're laughing AT Phil as opposed to agreeing with his worldview with laughter. However, I don't think this is the case.
I think people laughed because they did agree with this narrow-minded view: not just that we can/should judge a woman's worth based on the size of her breasts but that somehow Asian women are supposed to be small-breasted. I haven't seen every Asian woman in the world (Asian technically covering everything from Turkey and Israel and Lebanon to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan, and yes, Thailand as well as all points in between). Therefore, I'm in no position to say whether Jaime Chung, who played Stu's fiancee Lauren, is indeed solid for an Asian, but I can say that I don't find such dialogue funny because humor has to have some kind of intelligence with it. Here, it doesn't.
On this point, in retrospect, I may be wrong and misheard it. On my review, 'anonymous' wrote that what was said was 'solid rack formation', not 'solid rack for an Asian'. If that is the case, then I'm clearly in the wrong and withdraw my previous statement.
I can also go into their bigotry against Buddhism, in their reaction to mocking an old monk by making it appear he has an erection and then having the monkey appear to perform oral sex on said monk. People were laughing at all this, but I found it sad: sad that an old man was being so viciously and ruthlessly ridiculed and sad that the audience thought this was the height of hilarity. I felt just a terrible sadness to think just how dumbed down our society has come, to where boorish behavior can be held up as sources of 'inspired humor'.
I think it would be instructive to those who may have missed the connection to the photo montage at the end of the film to note that one of the pictures was a parody of the one above. Roger Ebert was extremely troubled by this, and I was both shocked and relieved. I had heard The Hangover Part II was mocking a famous picture of the Vietnam War, but I was concerned that the picture they mocked was this one:
not that it would have made it any better. I'm surprised they didn't go for this, given how the people involved in The Hangover Part II delight in their cruelty. I don't find the humor in either photo, and the fact that The Hangover Part II does says more about the state of American culture than it does about the film.
Of course, I will go on a limb and say that so many Americans are so clueless about history or the world outside their own circle that most wouldn't have known what the photo was referring to. I know people who've never heard of Nelson Mandela, and there are people who are unaware we ever fought a war with Japan or that slavery was a reason for the Civil War. I don't expect people to know every President in chronological order, especially since Grover Cleveland served non-consecutive terms, putting him twice on the list, but I do expect them to know some basics, such as what happened in Vietnam, and some of the iconic images of the divisive war.
In short, I thought The Hangover Part II was more than a disappointment. I thought it was cruel, spiteful, mean-spirited, vicious, ugly, an overall unpleasant experience. The first film had a charm and its own offbeat delight: the guys really seemed to care for each other, and the search for Doug was paramount not just to get him to the church on time but because they genuinely feared for his life. The second they appeared less concerned about a sixteen-year-old missing a finger than they were about a monkey and getting anal sex from a she-male Bangkok stripper/prostitute.
I've heard that there may be a third Hangover film. It wouldn't be a surprise, given how much money this one made, but there are a few things people should remember. First, The Hangover was a surprise hit: no one expected it to do so well. Second, the idea that something like this could happen for a third time would make the characters (and those who watch them) just downright incredibly stupid.
The only single person left is Alan, and given his general demeanor and homicidal tendencies, it can't be believed he would marry. Furthermore, after two nightmarish adventures it would make Stu and Phil, even Doug, look completely insane to consider bringing Alan or anything he gave them with them across the hall, let alone anywhere in the world.
People have got to be pretty stupid, beyond anything that could make sense, to want to see a Hangover Part III. The scenario never called for a Part II and would never accept a Part III. It's only a way to make a lot of money, and the audience would have to be as insane as Alan to want to give it to them...or we really have come to The End of Western Civilization when The Hangover Part II can pass for a great comedy.
Update, July 2017: It seems that many think I am overreacting wildly to my utter hatred towards The Hangover Part II. In retrospect, perhaps I did go overboard with what I originally wrote. I was just so shocked, even angry, at what I'd seen that I let my shock and anger overwhelm me.
Looking back with a greater distance of six years and more time to reflect, some comments are correct. It probably was an overreaction to say that people were horrible for laughing at things like severed fingers and child sex workers. Typing that out, though, it's hard to resist the temptation to not say that there is something wrong with people laughing at such things.
The gist of the complaints about my Personal Reflections is that I took things far too seriously for a comedy, particularly one with a proud R rating. I've seen R-rated comedies, I've even laughed and recommended R-rated comedies. Did I take The Hangover Part II too seriously? Perhaps.
I do understand that it is not meant to be serious, so in retrospect I might have cut it some slack.
I also think that too many people who complain about my views seem to think that the first one and the second one were the same. Therefore, if I didn't complain the first time, I shouldn't complain now. In a sense, they were the same film: the plot was pretty much the same, down to not having Doug be part of the antics.
My view, however, involves less the repetition of the plot than what I saw as changes in motivation. In the first, I saw Alan as more clueless than malicious. In the second, I saw Alan as malicious. In the first, I saw Alan slipping something into the drinks in a mistaken effort to have them all have a good time. In the second, I saw Alan slipping something into the drinks in order to harm someone, someone who happened to be old enough to be his son.
I've been taken to task for bringing up age, the suggestion being that I wouldn't have minded if Alan tried to kill an adult. In thinking on that, I don't think the potential victim being an adult would have made things better, but somehow it wouldn't make things creepier.
To wrap all this up, I thought The Hangover Part II was an ugly film: taking whatever was funny or clever or even charming about the first and drowning it in something almost sadistic. I'm not the only one who thinks this: 79% to 33% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes between Part I and Part II. The critical consensus for Part II is thus: A crueler, darker, raunchier carbon copy of the first installment, The Hangover Part II lacks the element of surprise -- and most of the joy -- that helped make the original a hit (emphasis mine). It brings to mind what the late Robert Osborne said about current comedies: there's no wit to them, too much slapstick.
I could have pulled back a bit in how I expressed my views, particularly on the audiences who enjoyed it, but on the whole I thought then and still think now that The Hangover Part II is the ugliest, the nastiest, the most grotesque and the worst film I have ever seen and perhaps will likely ever see, one I would never watch again.
The subject is now closed, and I will not write about it again.