Given that Queta has schooling to finish, our Memorial Day weekend was necessarily going to be low-key. The main diversion we allowed ourselves was a trip to the movies followed by a BBQ and the viewing of a disappointing UFC 130 at her sister’s place. As preordained by God himself, the film of choice was The Hangover Part II.
Now, the critics have been brutal with this one. It currently holds a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, a mere 2% above Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Movie Titles. Compare that to Fast Five, which has a 79%, so it’s not like it’s a bunch of cineaste snobs putting this movie down. Most of these critics are fine with Vin Diesel, but this movie angered them. Now, certainly, it wasn’t amazing; but neither did I think it was the trainwreck some are calling it.
What problems the film has can be traced back to one thing: Home Alone. Like Hangover, Home Alone was a massively successful comedy that put one of its stars on the Hollywood map. And I’m not talking about John Heard. The Hollywood machine dictates that anything successful needs a sequel, and thus Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was unleashed upon the world. What was remarkable about the sequel was how closely it hewed to the first film. Kevin is abandoned by his family? Check. He befriends another crazy old person? Check. He has to deal with the same burglars? Check. He lives like a gluttonous pig before learning responsibility? Check. We got a movie that, while composed of different elements, had the exact same skeleton. (Oddly enough, it was 17 minutes longer.)
So what had we with Hangover? A massively successful comedy that put several of its stars on the Hollywood map, none of whom was John Heard. It required a sequel, so Hangover Part II was unleashed upon the world. And how close was it to the first film? An impending wedding? Check. The guys black out for an evening and can’t remember? Check. They lose an important part of the wedding party? Check. Something happens to Stu’s face? Check. They have to deal with a criminal? Check (though in this one, Chow is an ally). There’s a mystery animal involved? Check. Even Bryan Callen returns as a Mediterranean character, though a different one in this film.
Now, despite these glaring lapses in originality, Home Alone 2 wasn’t a lost cause for me (at least 12 – 13-year-old me), and similarly Hangover II wasn’t either. There were still funny parts (mostly from Galifianakis) and it moved at a decent clip. It was the inferior film, and the ending didn’t successfully provide the emotional catharsis the first one did, though it tried (and I know talking about “emotional catharsis” in terms of a crass R-rated comedy is odd, but without spoiling it, there is a similar ending in both movies). Sure, you could see the strings more easily in this one – Chow’s arrival at the beginning could’ve been underscored by a studio audience applause track – but it was entertaining enough.
I dunno, I guess I wasn’t as bothered by Part II as the critics were; probably because I never put Part I on that high of a pedestal. I enjoyed Part I, and repeated viewings on HBO warmed me to it even a bit more, but I never thought it was the answer to comedy others claimed it was. As such, I think I was never setting myself up for as much disappointment as those others were. Even if Part II was the lesser film, and had some obvious callbacks to Part I, I was just fine with it. It was going to be a letdown; I’m just glad it wasn’t a bigger one.