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A Sequel Worth Seeing:

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BROMANTIC COMEDY: “The Hangover II” fellas—(l to r) Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis—continue churning out the laughs. Courtesy photo.

The Hangover II
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Starring Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Ken Jeong

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BROMANTIC COMEDY: “The Hangover II” fellas—(l to r) Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis—continue churning out the laughs. Courtesy photo.

Early last week I participated in an epic discussion. The parameters were simple: Name the 10 best comedies since the year 2000. This will no doubt be the subject of much debate and consternation. Here’s what I came up with:

1. “Anchorman”
2. “Idiocracy”
3. “Old School”
4. “Walk Hard”
5. “Sideways”
6. “The Royal Tenenbaums”
7. “Team America: World Police”
8. “40 Year Old Virgin”
9. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
10. “Bridesmaids”

Notice there aren’t any sequels on the list. Comedy sequels are always risky propositions. They aren’t like action films. Filmmakers rarely get their original gang back together and successfully put them through the paces. There’s something so rewarding about a good comedy, and something so redundant about an inevitable sequel: “Caddyshack 2,” “Wayne’s World 2” and “Ghostbusters 2” are all good examples. The sequels rarely do anything to enhance the stature of the original. If anything, they detract from it.

I always use “Meet the Parents” as a perfect example. I like “Meet the Parents.” It’s a harmless, amusing and generally entertaining comedy with some great awkward moments. It’s a little more saccharine than most comedies I like, but I have no problem admitting I found it funny. Then we get “Meet the Fockers,” a tired and hackneyed excuse, a carbon-copy of the original, which feels like an extension of the first film. There’s no new territory covered, no attempt at creating something fresh. It’s a retread of a successful formula—and this is why most comedy sequels fail.

“The Hangover Part II” is the first movie that somehow manages to buck this trend despite being identical to the original. The plot is remarkably similar to the 2009 buddy comedy that grossed almost $500 million worldwide. Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married in Thailand. His buddy Phil (Bradley Cooper) is hoping for some drinking and debauchery, and in tow is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the slightly mental man-child responsible for drugging them in Vegas, leading to a series of hilarious events.

Very little has changed since the first film. Stu is still uptight and perpetually afraid that someone is going to drug him before his wedding. Phil is desperate for a few days away from the family where he can act like a jackass and live consequence-free if only for the long weekend. Alan is strange as ever, obsessed with their weekend in Vegas and has developed an almost stalker mentality toward the fellow members of “The Wolfpack.”

The night before the wedding, the friends get together for a drink. The next morning they wake up in a seedy hotel with no memory of the prior night’s events. Once again, the guys have a limited amount of time to work backward to try and find out what happened. The twisted tale takes them through the dingy streets of Bangkok where they deal with angry monks, Asian gangsters and a drug-running, chain-smoking monkey. The film is note-for-note, beat-for-beat, the exact same movie as “The Hangover.” Replace Vegas with Bangkok, and the same plot gets summed up in a tidy package. Though, this “Hangover” is a little more mean-spirited. It’s also a much better story. The first movie felt like a series of gags with very little connective tissue. “The Hangover II” feels much more like a complete story, and the “stranger in a strange land” motif greatly helps sell the bizarre circumstances in which the Wolfpack finds themselves encroached. Vegas was an amusing and appropriate background, but Bangkok feels dirty, dark and dangerous.

Yes, it’s a formula, but the formula works. This is a damn funny movie. While it’s not quite the total comedic experience of “Bridesmaids” (see last week’s review at www.encorepub.com), it’s still an excellent example of the importance of well-executed comedy. Most of the credit goes to the actors who really do a marvelous job of making these guys likable enough to want to go on another two-hour ride. Ed Helms plays such a marvelously high-strung nerd. Zach Galifianakis’ Asperger-inspired idiot savant is far funnier than he has any right to be. Bradley Cooper is a gifted straight man. The real treasure here is Ken Jeong as the international crime lord, Chao. He steals every scene he’s in and generates the biggest laughs the film has to offer.

This is one of the few comedies that actually improves on the original. It’s almost the exact same movie, but for some reason it works better the second time around. I’ll be damned if I can explain it, but I sure as hell did enjoy it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYL_T7f59o8

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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