Critics Somehow Shocked 'The Hangover 2' Is Crude and Tasteless

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In The Hangover, four friends went to Las Vegas, blacked out, were tasered by a small child, established a tenuous friendship with Mike Tyson, and outsmarted a Korean gangster who first appeared onscreen naked and jumping out of a trunk. There was also a marriage to a prostitute, a pantsless hug, several musical performances by members of the cast, a comically bad sunburn, and closing credit sequence comprised mainly of photographs of simulated sex acts..

These are not the elements of high comedy, but The Hangover grossed $277 million and won over the majority of critics back in 2009 because it was a well-done raunchy summer comedy. Now that  Mike Tyson's tattoo artist isn't a threat to hold up the release of The Hangover Part II, the early reviews seem shocked that a sequel to a crude, tasteless movie is this crude and tasteless. Did anyone think the sequel--whose trailer looks pretty much identical to the original--would mess with this formula?

"Is this some kind of a test?" wonders Roger Ebert in his opening paragraph. "The Hangover, Part II plays like a challenge to the audience's capacity for raunchiness. It gets laughs, but some of them are in disbelief. As if making sure no one was not offended, it has a montage of still photos over the closing titles that include one cruel shot that director Todd Phillips should never, ever have used."

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We don't know what the image is (Variety's Andrew Barker called it "breathtakingly offensive"), but it could have something to do with a sequence Borys Kit describes at The Hollywood Reporter where "the guys venture into a strip bar where it's revealed that Helms' character, who is getting married, partied too hard with what appears to be a female dancer. In the dressing room, audiences soon catch glimpse after glimpse of what's under the hood of that dancer, played by Yasmin Lee, whose previous film credits include Big Ass She-Male Road Trip 13, Transsexual Cheerleaders and Bitch Got Balls." That scene, Kit notes, followed "a lengthy sequence featuring a nude [Ken] Jeong, including a moment when members of the gang appear to fondle his penis." (Other cited instances of vulgarity: Galifianakis mistakes the word 'demon' for 'semen,' cocaine is snorted and strippers perform lewd acts with ping pong balls")

It should be noted that none of this seems as inherently funny as waking up with a tiger in your hotel room, or being accidentally roofied by Galifianakis. That could be why the film has a fresh rating of just 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Or maybe, as Marc Lee writes in his Daily Telegraph the summer comedy is "darker and harsher in tone and the comedy is more cruel" than the original's. When it comes to its laugh potential, dark, harsh, and cruel stand out as the three most troubling words we've heard yet about The Hangover Part II. It's called a buddy picture, not an everybody-hates-each-other picture.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.