‘Hangover II’ is a remake passing as a sequel. Also reviewed: ‘Panda 2’ and ‘The Beaver.’
I’m not going to waste your time and mine by going into any details about the disappointing remake of The Hangover that is officially designated as a sequel, Hangover, Part II, again directed by Todd Phillips. Of course audiences expected some rehashing of the original since we are talking about the aftermath of another alcoholic and drug-induced bender featuring the return of the Wolf Pack — Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zack Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha), the latter once again left behind, luckily for him.
However, that is no excuse for throwing together a “sequel” the follows the same path except that the setting is Thailand rather than Vegas, with five credited writers who have made the film darker, much less funny and provided the type of bad behavior in another country that pretty much defines the term “ugly Americans.”
Because of the dark edge that includes a character losing a finger and some “alternative” sexual hyjinks, this film almost feels like a blend of The Hangover and the pitch black comedy Very Bad Things, which is also about a bachelor party gone very wrong.
Unfortunately, the resulting movie is a lot worse than either of those two films.
You have to admire Jodie Foster. For someone who has only made two previous films as a director, and is already limiting her audience with her indie film drama mindset, giving her friend Mel Gibson the title role in The Beaver pretty much guaranteed that the box office results would be bleak. However, the two time Academy Award winning actress wanted the best actor for the role and Gibson delivers with a brilliant performance as a mentally damaged family man.
When we meet Walter Black, he is in a deep depression that will only be relieved in his mind by killing himself. He then finds an ugly beaver puppet in the trash and starts letting the puppet do all his talking. His wife believes him when Walter hands her a card that says this is a form of therapy suggested by his doctor, and his youngest son thinks The Beaver is really cool. His teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin), however, wonders why his mother is accepting this behavior. Gibson is the boss at the toy company so you understand why his co-workers (including Cherry Jones of 24 fame) decide to go along with this insanity.
Mental illness is not a topic that often finds its way to the big screen, especially when there is only a hint of humor around the edges. The film works thanks to the performance by Gibson. Despite his messy personal life laid bare on the Internet and tabloid headlines, he still has talent. The Beaver also features top supporting performances from two of the best young actors in Hollywood, recent Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Yelchin (Star Trek, Terminator Salvation).
The Beaver is an odd little movie, but it is also oddly fascinating.
More Kung Fu Fun
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel that provides family fun without too much rehashing of the original film. The filmmakers came up with another villain who needs to be vanquished by the Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) and his kung fu pals the furious five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Mantis (Seth Rogan).
The story also gives us more information about how Po came to be adopted by a goose and how this new villain, the evil peacock Shen (Gary Oldman), had a hand in Po’s life when he was an adorable radish-eating baby.
The action sequences are truly exciting and visually stunning. And, as if we didn’t have enough vocal powerhouses from the original film returning (including Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu and James Hong as Po’s dad Mr. Ping), the additions beyond Oldman include Dennis Haysbert, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michelle Yeoh.
The Hangover Part II *½
Directed by Todd Phillips; rated R
The Beaver **½
Directed by Jodie Foster; rated PG-13
Kung Fu Panda 2 **½
Directed by Jennifer Yuh; rated PG