We watched "The Hangover II" last night, and we woke up this morning, still laughing. Literally.
In comedy, laughs come from one of two things, either the "situation", or simply from one-liners. When thinking of the "situation comedies" which got the biggest laughs from the set up and delivery of a situation, think "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" or "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Comedies that made their living off hilarious one-liners were "Cheers" and "Friends". In "The Hangover II", the situation is non-existent, or at best, it's a carbon copy of the situation from the first "Hangover", but it doesn't matter because the one-liners are some of the funniest we've ever heard. Writing a funny one-liner is only half the equation, though, you also have to have a comedic actor who can deliver the one-liner and make it funny. And in Zach Galifianakas and Ken Jeong, you have the reason why "The Hangover II" is breaking major box office records; those two actors' ability to deliver a funny one-liner is genius.
It's sad that someone of Ed Helms comedic ability is almost relegated to "straight man" status in "The Hangover II", but when you've got Galifianakas and Jeong, why try to compete? Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Galifianakas plays the goofy innocent to perfection; his delivery is quiet and subtle, but listen carefully, almost every word he utters will have you on the floor. We're still laughing at the question he asks when walking into a Buddhist temple. And Jeong is the comedic equivalent of singer Reba McEntire, who made a career out of milking sixteen syllables out a two-syllable word. Jeong can extend one word in a line and almost force the funny out of a line that on the written page probably wasn't even that humorous. In one particular scene, his explanation for his computer password was priceless.
The critics are tagging "The Hangover II" as too raunchy, but we disagree. We're the first to deride a comedy that's raunchy for raunchy's sake, and which has no other redeeming value, (think "There's Something About Mary": the film equivalent of a 13 year-old boy making armpit noises). But "The Hangover II"'s raunch is perfectly placed and suits the situation and tone of the movie; it's not there to exploit and cheapen, it's there to heighten. There is a difference. But again, we go back to the importance of the cast of a movie. When Galifianakas and Jeong are framing the raunch, you can't help but enjoy it; on the other hand, when you're saddled with "There's Something About Mary"'s Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz, who have never been funny, then the raunch just makes one feel so cheap and insulted that only a long, hot shower will wash the "stupid" away. And not to sound corny, but "The Hangover II" has a heart; the guys really care about each other and other people around them. The characters are not cruel or without feeling, another element which elevates "The Hangover II" above other movies in the "raunch" genre.
There's also a lot of discussion in "The Hangover II" about the use of male genitalia for comedy. Of course, some of the same critics deriding this "last frontier" of comedy have probably never said a word about the decades we've spent watching women's hooters used as comedic props. All we can say is, "Grow up, people, it's a whole new world out there, and turnabout is fairplay."
Congrats to "The Hangover II". You made us laugh out loud, and even as we write this post today, when we think about some of the lines in the movie, we're still laughing. But as enjoyable as the movie was, we can't wait to see what happens next with Zach Galifianakas and Ken Jeong's careers. Welcome to the bigtime, boys!