The Hangover Part II's chief virtues are its tackling of its interracial element without anything like controversy and a mid-stream dream sequence that is sticky, loaded, and, my God, there it is, brilliant. (It actually draws a line, said sequence, to Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, leading one to fairly wonder if memory and perception are the catchwords of this new decade in film.) Stu's engagement to stupid-beautiful Lauren (Jamie Cheung) is a matter of fact, not controversy--the only bad you could really say about it is that it's just the excuse to set the film in Thailand and that the movie's squeamishness about going too far in demonizing Asians (all of its baddies are Eurotrash) puts it in danger of being a little condescending. Enter Chow (Ken Jeong) to level the racial playing field, so offensive in every quantifiable measure that he's destined to be the Stifler of this franchise and single-handedly responsible for setting back the cause of Asians in mainstream American culture by, oh, a couple of months at least. Saving grace of both Chow and The Hangover Part II proper is that they're funny. (And what the monkey does to Chow while he's sleeping is funny in an indelible way.) All of it's amiable enough, really, that even a coda with Mike Tyson singing selections from "Chess" only kills the vibe for a few minutes. The real shame is that this sequel's ultimately another scatological burlesque that falls in lockstep with Judd Apatow's ultra-conservative message of monogamy and marriage. Following the broad outlines of the first film faithfully, Phil, Alan, and Stu wake up in a devastated hotel room, this time with a severed finger and a chain-smoking monkey instead of a baby and a tiger--but the principle's the same. Again they're missing one of their member (Teddy) and forced to try to piece together what happened the night before using clues and artifacts; frankly, I kind of appreciate that they didn't try to reinvent the wheel.
"Bangkok Tour with Mr. Chow" (3 mins., HD) is more Jeong being Jeong, but allegedly in character, while a painfully long moment of Zach Galifianakis trying to get a microphone to work pads out a 5-minute "Gag Reel" (HD). Continuing a baffling tradition started on the BD of the original, a HiDef "Action Mashup" compacting this sequel's thrills and spills into a 46-second montage rounds out the special features. The dynamic 2.40:1, 1080p transfer of The Hangover Part II proper is above reproach, with Lawrence Sher's cinematography once again making a smooth, filmic transition to the format, even as Sher pushes the rankness well beyond what it was in the first movie. For better or worse, the picture's qualities as a tactile travelogue have been faithfully reproduced here. Meanwhile, there's real flair to the soundmix, presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The beats of Christophe Beck's score drop some deep bass and the entire soundstage yields to the set-pieces, which typically doesn't happen when the overriding genre is comedy. Note that I had to restart the disc to get the centre channel to kick in; I'm sure it was just one of those quirks of technology. A retail DVD additionally housing a Digital Copy of The Hangover Part II is included in the packaging. No unrated version this time--I guess they got to push the envelope enough in theatres. Originally published: December 19, 2011.
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