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The Hangover Part II: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy Review

The Hangover Part II (2011) movie poster The Hangover Part II

Theatrical Release: May 26, 2011 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Todd Phillips / Writers: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips (screenplay); Jon Lucas, Scott Moore (characters)

Cast: Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Stu Price), Zach Galifiankis (Alan Garner), Ken Jeong (Mr. Leslie Chow), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Paul Giamatti (Kingsley), Jamie Chung (Lauren Srisai), Sasha Barrese (Tracy Billings), Mason Lee (Teddy Srisai), Gillian Vigman (Stephanie Wenneck), Bryan Callen (Samir), Mike Tyson (Himself), Aroon Seeboonruang (Monk), Nirut Sirichanya (Fohn), Yasmin Lee (Kimmy), Nick Cassavetes (Tattoo Joe), Sondra Currie (Linda Garner)

Buy The Hangover Part II from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy DVD + Digital Copy Blu-ray + Digital Copy Instant Video

The Hangover enjoyed a one-of-a-kind reception. Released across from the flashy usual big budget summer fare, the little 2009 comedy with no established movie stars won over both critics
and the general public to a staggering $277 million domestic gross that only two R-rated movies, The Matrix Reloaded and The Passion of the Christ, had previously reached.

To repeat that performance would be just about impossible and yet director Todd Phillips, Warner Bros. Pictures, and the now a lot more recognizable and ubiquitous cast would try anyway in The Hangover Part II.

This sequel opens just like its predecessor does: a wedding day has arrived and again Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) has to put in a call to warn that things have gotten out of control and that the ceremony might have to be cancelled. The scene initially seems to be homage, ironic self-parody ("It happened again."), or perhaps just a callback to remind viewers of the movie they fell in love with. In fact, though, it is just the first of countless beats from the original film which is closely recreated here.

Three "best friends" Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are back in a familiar position, this time trying to piece together the puzzle of a wild night in Bangkok.

Nerdy dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms) is getting married and in the Thai town where the parents of his bride Lauren (Jamie Chung) live. At the prodding of the first movie's groom Doug (Justin Bartha, again used sparingly), Stu reluctantly agrees to extend an invitation to Doug's eccentric brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). With that, "The Wolfpack" is reunited and ready to party in ways that Stu's IHOP bachelor brunch does not allow.

Over in Thailand, the wedding preparations begin with Stu's future father-in-law (Nirut Sirijanya) making his disapproval clear. Wanting to call it an early night on the eve of his ceremony, Stu gets talked into a brief sunset beach bonfire with the guys. This is where things inevitably go wild. Once again, we don't see what happens, only the aftermath. Phil, Stu, and Alan wake up in a dilapidated and seemingly deserted Bangkok hotel. There are new deformities: Stu has Mike Tyson's tribal tattoo freshly inked on his face (an idea that brought lawsuit against the film by the design's original artist) and Alan has his head (but not his beard) shaved. There is an inexplicable animal: a clothed monkey, posing less threat than Tyson's tiger did. And there is the same question: what just happened?

Naturally, the movie follows the three friends around Bangkok as they try to put the pieces together on their troubling latest puzzle. The first film's playbook is followed to a T. Once again, there is a missing, possibly endangered guy they have to find; this time, it's the bride's 16-year-old brother Teddy (ill at ease Mason Lee). To parallel the first film's baby Carlos, there is a new nonverbal companion: a wheelchair-bound monk (Aroon Seeboonruang), who has taken a vow of silence and is therefore helpless against Alan's juvenile sense of humor. And once again, there is Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the effeminate Chinese American criminal who improbably shows up to advance and complicate the mystery.

This time around, the roof is not the answer to The Wolfpack's questions. Whereas last time Stu (Ed Helms) woke up missing a tooth, this time he is startled to find a prominent tribal tattoo on his face.

Though it takes its name from the granddaddy of all sequels (The Godfather Part II), this second Hangover takes its every cue from its own predecessor. Not only is that design wildly unimaginative, it also greatly reduces the movie's potential impact. The first film earned notice for being outrageous and unpredictable, adjectives this one also aspires to.
But outrageousness and unpredictability require more than simply changing the details of episodes fresh in mind. Unless you haven't seen the original movie, you'll start to anticipate each beat: the "unexpected" leap out of an enclosed area, the casual shock nudity, the revelation of Stu's impulsive actions, the standoff exchange, the delayed explanation for the guys' amnesia, a hopeless Stu ditty, and the epiphany of the missing party's whereabouts.

None of the original movie's writers are back, but one feels that they deserve story credit here because all that Phillips' script with Old School, Starsky & Hutch collaborator Scot Armstrong and Scary Movie 3 & 4 scribe Craig Mazin does is rewrite the same bits with Bangkok replacing Las Vegas while trying to up the ante slightly. The first movie had enough strong ideas for this one to get some mileage out of recycling. If you liked the first movie, you are bound to find some laughs in this one. (If you didn't like the first movie, chances are you'll dislike this one even more.) The breakout star before, Zach Galifianakis is again the highlight, his non sequiturs and Jonas Brothers fandom as amusing as anything else here. But, per the laws of diminishing returns, the comedy success rate is far lower this time all around.

Part of the reason the original Hangover worked so well, I theorized in my review of last year's Extreme Edition DVD, was that its lead characters were likable average guys, a bit nerdy and generally non-threatening. Their reactions to making sense of the bizarre mess they were in were sure to echo ours. The sequel doesn't give us as much time with the characters simply being themselves. It's eager to get to the story and explain (often exposit) why everything is going down in this way, from how Stu is suddenly engaged to someone other than his two prior love interests to why the wedding has to be in Thailand and with the same three guys in the exact same predicament down to specific postures.

The real problem here seems to be that Phillips et al. didn't wait for inspiration to strike. People loved the first movie, leading the studio hungry to tap into demand before it could dry up and the director to collect on the biggest payday in his 17-year career. Instead of coming up with more to meet public appetite, Phillips just gives them more of the same. Maybe that was unavoidable. Despite sequel talk emerging even before the first film's release, in no way was The Hangover designed to launch a franchise. It was one distinctive comedy movie, full of style and laughs. That Golden Globe winner (for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy) is a tremendously difficult act to follow; we can easily criticize the writers for not departing from the routine or coming up with new ideas, but who's to say that departure and originality would have been any better. Those who buy tickets to The Hangover Part II do so because they liked The Hangover; the further away from that the filmmakers get, the less certain to satisfy they are.

In Alan's mind, the gang is all twelve years old, except for the silent monk (Aroon Seeboonruang) and Teddy (Mason Lee, top right). Paul Giamatti joins the cast as the intimidating Kingsley, who takes a liking to Alan's Bangkok straw hat.

If nothing else, playing things safely seems to have worked out at the box office. Expectedly, Part II opened a lot bigger than the original, grossing an astonishing $135 million in its five day Memorial Day weekend debut. That alone put it ahead of almost every live-action comedy ever made and though steep drops would inevitably follow, the sequel still managed to wind up with $254 M domestically and, improving upon its predecessor, over $580 M and counting worldwide. Such numbers are practically unheard of for a non-spectacle, non-animated comedy film. Only two movies have made more in North America this year so far: the final Harry Potter installment and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The penultimate Twilight will soon join them as well, but probably nothing else. In a year that has seen almost every sequel decline significantly from their forebears, The Hangover Part II is a runaway success and one whose costs are considerably less than every other movie performing in the same league.

The financials can only mean one thing: The Hangover Part III. The inevitable sequel is being described as the final installment in an unlikely epic trilogy. The latest talk is that it will be set in Los Angeles and could begin shooting next September, presumably for Summer 2013 release. Part II's reception by fans and critics suggest that it is unrealistic to expect the studio to reach these same phenomenal heights, but as long as the budget is kept reasonable, it'd be tough to imagine a third adventure losing money.

Despite all the stunt casting talk that pervaded Part Two's production, we don't get any real wild cards. No Mel Gibson, who was curiously un-cast over reported cast and crew objections. No Liam Neeson, who was supposed to replace him. No President Bill Clinton, whose Thailand set visit was misreported as a cameo. Who do we get? The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes in the role intended for Gibson and first filled by Neeson; Paul Giamatti in a part seemingly less maniacal than written; and Mike Tyson, further sending himself up with off-key singing.

Closely following the timing of its predecessor, The Hangover Part II hits DVD and Blu-ray today, over six months after its theatrical premiere. Here, we look at the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack, which in Warner tradition is two discs and per recent changes, relegates the digital copy to an UltraViolet stream, which has angered some Amazon customers. Unlike the first movie, no unrated cut has been created for this film... yet. It's not hard to imagine such an extension being supplied in advance of the finale's release, but no plans to that effect have been announced at this time.

The Hangover Part II Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Blu-ray only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD + Digital Copy ($28.99 SRP),
movie-only Blu-ray + Digital Copy ($29.98 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

To an even greater extent than the first movie, The Hangover Part II has a look darker and more edgy than the vast majority of comedy films. The Blu-ray maintains that nicely in its completely satisfactory 2.40:1 transfer. The soundtrack again reaches for offbeat music selections, from Danzig to Flo Rida. These are rendered well, as are the crisp dialogue and ambient city noises in the disc's 5.1 DTS-HD master audio.

From the sampling I did, the anamorphic DVD presentation looks okay, but a good deal weaker than the Blu-ray, with some compression issues turning up early and somewhat often. If you haven't already upgraded to Blu-ray, you probably won't be troubled by the standard definition transfer's visual shortcomings or the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack's lesser impact.

Miles Davis-Davidson (Rob Benedict) tries to get the true story of what happened in Bangkok, by questioning Justin Bartha on Big Gulp cups in the unauthorized documentary mockumentary. Crystal the capuchin monkey of "Night at the Museum" fame gives director Todd Phillips repeated head slaps.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

The Hangover Part II gets a modest supply of bonus features for a movie that made as much money as it did.

The all-HD extras begin with "The Unauthorized Documentary" (25:26), which puts a staged, meta, deadpan twist on the obligatory making-of featurette. "Documentarian" Miles Davis-Davidson (Rob Benedict) tries to tell the "true" story of an out of control production whose makers had success go to their head.
He talks with, among others, directors J.J. Abrams, Morgan Spurlock, and Todd Phillips and actors Matt Walsh, Justin Bartha, and Ken Jeong. It's like a short, entertaining, creative, tongue-in-cheek version of The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan, similar to, but not as good as, Tropic Thunder's "Rain of Madness."

Three short featurettes fall under the heading Behind the Story. "The Comedy Rhythm of Todd Phillips" (6:59) shows us the director in action, with B-roll capturing unused improvisations (some of them suggested by the director) and an atmosphere of fun. The director and cast also sound off on their collaborative process. "Not Your Everyday Monkey" (2:41) celebrates Crystal, the film's cigarette-smoking capuchin, who is shown getting friendly with the cast, Bradley Cooper most of all. "Bangkok Tour with Chow" (3:03) has Ken Jeong take you around Thailand's capital in character. It's sure to offend some viewers and crack up others.

Ken Jeong reprises his divisive Mr. Chow character for a politically incorrect tour of Bangkok. Unsurprisingly, the gag reel finds the Hangover II cast cracking up on more than one occasion.

A gag reel (4:53) shows us entertaining goofs and subsequent banter. "Action Mashup" (0:46) merely strings together some of the film's more high-octane moments in a tightly-edited reel.

Finally, there is a BD-Live section, but like all other Warner ones, it wouldn't load for me.

With the digital copy now relegated to UltraViolet download, it makes little sense why the DVD here is a stripped-down version of the one sold on its own. Of course, the latter itself is a stripped-down version of what it would have been just a few years ago (even the first movie got a 2-disc, 2-cut set on DVD). All that the standalone DVD gains over this barebones combo disc is the 5-minute gag reel.

The Blu-ray opens with promos for Blu-ray 3D and the WB Inside Rewards Program. No movie trailers appear on either disc.

The Blu-ray and main DVD menu loop an Asia-inspired score excerpt a few times before going silent over a static reformatting of a poster design. The BD does not support bookmarks, but it does allow you to resume movie playback where you last left off.

The discs claim opposite sides of an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, which is topped by a slipcover and holds a digital copy/WB Insider code.

Sticking to the first film's script to the very end, "The Hangover Part II" closes with the Wolfpack and friends (including Mike Tyson) taking a look at their forgotten yet well-documented wild night escapades.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you liked The Hangover, you'll want to see Part Two, but don't expect to find a new favorite comedy. As much of a remake as it is a sequel, this less funny and far less creative follow-up constitutes a disappointment and breaks director Todd Phillips' long streak of bettering himself.
Bringing us down from tall heights, Part Two isn't terrible, but its over-the-top crude sensibilities wear thin (especially removed from a large, receptive theater audience) and the movie pales compared to the summer's more original R-rated comedies (like Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids).

The Blu-ray delivers excellent picture and sound. Though there is a bit less in the way of bonus features than you'd expect, the central mockumentary is unusually fun. The absence of deleted scenes is surprising (especially considering they include Liam Neeson), but that's consistent with the first movie. All in all, both the movie and its presentation are mediocre enough to assume the inventiveness of the first film is gone and the best we can now hope for is diverting but lazy cashing in.

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD + Digital Copy / Blu-ray + Digital Copy / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Todd Phillips: The Hangover (Extreme Edition) Due Date | 2011 R-Rated Comedies: Horrible Bosses Bad Teacher Hall Pass
New: 30 Minutes or Less Our Idiot Brother The Help Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special The Smurfs
Zach Galifiankis: Dinner for Schmucks Youth in Revolt Operation: Endgame G-Force | Ed Helms: Cedar Rapids
Bradley Cooper: Case 39 The A-Team He's Just Not That Into You Yes Man | Justin Bartha: National Treasure
Ken Jeong: Transformers: Dark of the Moon Zookeeper Knocked Up | Paul Giamatti: Win Win
Mockumentaries: Rain of Madness (on Tropic Thunder) The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan

The Hangover Part II Songs List (in order of use): Jenny Lewis - "Bad Man's World", Danzig - "Black Hell", Billy Joel - "The Downeaster 'Alexa'", Kanye West - "Stronger", Ken Peplowski - "Pretend", Kanye West featuring Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver - "Monster", Johnny Cash - "The Beast in Me", Emir Isilay - "Bangkok Days", Tae Tid Tu - "Chine Khim Lek (For Thai Brass Band)", Howlin' Wolf - "Smokestack Lightning", Dao Bandon - "Mae Jom Ka Lon", Buddhist Monks at Services in Kyoto, Japan - "Godai-Gan", Black Eyed Peas - "Imma Be", Deadmau5 - "Sofi Needs a Ladder", "Shimmy Shake", Ed Helms - "Alantown (To the Tune of 'Allentown')", Dengue Fever - "One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula", Curtis Mayfield - "Pusher Man", Jim Croce - "Time in a Bottle", Ska Rangers - "I Ran", Wolfmother - "Love Train", Mike Tyson - "One Night in Bangkok", Ska Rangers - "Just the Way You Are", Flo Rida and Pitbull - "Turn Around Part 2"

The Hangover Part II: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
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Reviewed December 6, 2011.



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