“Hangover 2” got slammed by the critics, with only a 35 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But I liked it. I don’t usually comment on other critics’ reviews, but this time I think it is worth taking a moment because the very things that many critics didn’t like about the movie were the things I liked best. Many critics complained that it was essentially a remake of the first, sticking closely to the same structure. They saw that as a sign of lack of imagination or just cynical and lazy. I thought it was very clever. In narrative terms, the repetition underscores an inevitability, almost a destiny for the characters that deepens the comedy with another layer.
Many critics thought the movie crossed the line from outrageous to offensive. I had some problems with some of the material but overall I appreciated its willingness to go darker and more twisted than the first one. I was less offended by the confident, beautiful trans stripper/hooker in the sequel than the idealized hooker/mom with a heart of gold in the first one.
Christopher Orr is one of my favorite critics — smart, knowledgable, funny, and a terrific writer. I loved his review of the “brutal hilarity” of “The Hangover 2.”
Indeed, the comedy is not just black but noir–which is apt, given the formula to which Phillips has adhered so rigidly. The missing person, the seamy urban setting, the gradual accretion of clues: The Hangover films are, essentially, hard-boiled crime stories spun into comic depravity, heirs as surely to Hammett, Chandler, and Cain as they are to Apatow and the Farellys. This was central to the appeal of the first movie. Even as it found room for scenes with taser-happy schoolkids and Mike Tyson singing “In the Air Tonight,” there was an uncommon meticulousness to its structure: It succeeded not only as comedy but, in its way, as mystery.
I think that when characters like Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) or even Helms’ character in “Cedar Rapids” have some uncharacteristic acting out it should reveal something about their characters. (I don’t think Alan’s behavior on drugs is very different from off drugs.) It is fun to see how excruciating it can be for Phil and Ed to discover, slowly what they are capable of, but it is more satisfying to see them realize (even in a comedic way) that they need to integrate that with their notion of themselves.