The more things stay the same, the more they change. Yeah, I know. I got the old adage backward and inside out. But it applies so perfectly to the sequel to The Hangover, the 2009 film that broke every expectation in Hollywood for how successful an R-rated comedy could be.
In a gutsy move, the new film’s makers have pretty much revisited the original one, in many cases note for note. It actually begins with a phone call from the same actor to the same actress, then launches into a story, now set in Thailand, of an upcoming wedding, some guys at a bachelor party, one of them going missing after a night of forgotten debauchery, and a search both to find him and to figure out what the hell happened — all of this playing out against the wedding deadline.
The sequel goes (not) so far as to also include some animal presence, the company of the mean and nasty Mr. Chow, a renewed attack on the face of Ed Helms’ character, another musical segment with Stu singing about their situation, and, oh yeah, some photos at the end.
Yet somehow, amid all of this repetition (and some terrific new wrinkles), the film stays fresh, funny, edgy and totally bonkers.
But let’s let some of the folks who made it discuss what happened. The Inlander recently spoke with them at a Beverly Hills press gathering.
Director-co-writer Todd Phillips: “The fun part of the first movie is that the guys are funny and there’s chemistry. But it’s also a mystery, and we didn’t want to lose that investigative element from the first one. We said early on that we were gonna stick with that template, and embrace it.”
Bradley Cooper (Phil): “You didn’t get to know [the characters] in the first film. The mystery with the ticking clock took precedence in that one. I think the difference between the films is that this one is more about the dynamic of the three guys, and you really do get to know them.”
Ed Helms (Stu): “The first time we were defining those characters and discovering them ourselves. They were more like conventional archetypes that we added our accents and inflections to. In the second movie, we were able to add dimension to the characters because we’d already done the homework. This time we had more stuff, like going to Stu’s dental office, or getting to see Alan in his bedroom, to flesh these guys out. There were more onion layers being peeled back.
Zach Galifianakis (Alan): “We all wanted to see the characters turning against each other a bit, which was fun to watch. We all clashed. That was something new that we explored.”
Phillips: “The success of The Hangover was due to a bunch of things, sort of all planets aligned. It had a lot to do with the unapologetic nature of the comedy. A lot of American comedies tend to apologize for their bad behavior in the last 10 minutes of the movie, and The Hangover doesn’t do that. It just doesn’t apologize. It has an unapologetic tone that people responded to because we’re used to a certain way of these stories being told.
“Obviously, we always envisioned it as a trilogy (laughs). If we were to do a third one, if the desire of the audience was there, I think we have a very clear idea where it would head. And it’s certainly not in the same template that you’ve seen these movies. The third one would be a finale and an ending. As far as where it would take place, I’m very open, like the Olympic committee, to being pitched and presented cities, flown around, with wine and women and bribes. And then I will make my decision.”