IR Interview: Jennifer Fox (Director) & Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche (Subject) For “My Reincarnation” [PBS] – Part I
Watching the textural possibilities of a “Hangover” sequel, the thought that comes to mind is how do you capitalize on the notion of lightning trapped in a bottle. With Las Vegas and committing to that experience that everyone has had at one time or another, where do you go that pushes the envelope even farther.
Bangkok is indeed the perfect spot, added to the fact that many people have heard its stories but few have been there. Interesting enough in researching and placing together this idea, writer/director Todd Phillips knows enough about the area and its intensity to both highlight, tempt and resolutely disgust at the same time. What is exceptional is that what comes through at times, which was there in the last one, and upon first viewing, very much so in this one, is simply the character tones inherent in all of the participants.
Zach Galifianakis as Alan accessorizes this notion of a man child who feels truly alive when he is around these friends. Ed Helms as Stu is stuck in his own world of trying to live up to notions of being a man but only releases his demon upon said blowouts. Bradley Cooper as Phil simply goes with the flow although his chastising of Alan shows a very human perception of Zach. It works because they are so disimilar. One never feels as if they don’t get each other. Alan just doesn’t understand what he is doing.
While the first “Hangover” had some cinematic moments, the one that truly stands out here is not the pictures (which are still funnier than hell at the end) but rather Stu singing a new version of a Billy Joel song called “Alan-Town”. It is very unassuming as the three of them travel down a waterway on a longboat. It just seems so effortless and yet almost real. Plus the song’s rewritten lyrics encapsulate the movie at that moment. You get that the actors sense it too.
Moving back from that sense of the movie (which I never quite thought at times Todd Philips would do ten years ago) the simple laugh-out loud possibilities are there in terms of physical comedy but it is Mr. Chow (played with unrepentant energy by Ken Jeong) along with Monkey that truly steals the show. Jeong was good in the last one but now that we know what he is capable of, it is just like music. He and Monkey could do a movie on their own.
Even the car chase through old Bangkok which could have been old hat works because of the set up. The plot importance is there but Chow keeps it like he is going to the store to pick up bread. When he utters the line, when they are almost done with the deal, “maybe get bump”, the whole theater cracked up. From then until the end of the chase, it is bedlam like the old screwball comedies with the Wolfpack simply along along for the wild ride with Chow.
The resolution at the end keeps the structure open and brings the characters back from the brink without too much damage. Again, also showing that Philips knows his landmarks or, at least his location scout connections are killer in Thailand, alot of the third act takes place on top of the LeBua Hotel At State Tower which is one of the coolest hotels in Bangkok which has a Roman temple on top of it with an open air roof that looks like something out of Sodom & Gomorrah. Alot of the high Bangkok shots are shot there as well as some fly by helicopter bits but the place, having been and stayed there, is dope beyond measure.
Thailand, despite any shall we say alternative elements, is painted as beautiful with the opening shots capturing what the country is capable of and is. The first “Hangover” was a postcard of Las Vegas as it really is in all its glory and motivated many people to come back (even in harder economic times) to Sin City. “The Hangover Part II” does the same for Bangkok. Having been there it shows the real side of the city but also the beauty and fun of what makes it a jewel in Asia.
“The Hangover Part II” lived up to the original for me because it took what made the first one exceptional, didn’t lose any of the possibilities and proceeded on. People are who they are and the Wolfpack are no different. No matter what they do, they will end up in these situations again and again. That is what makes them relatable. It’s because their fallible and not dumb, just party animals who happened to hit odd luck twice. Like this movie.
And stay for the pictures again. It is just makes the whole thing funnier.