In 2009, The Hangover ticked off pretty much every item you can imagine on the R-rated-comedy checklist on its way to record-setting box office glory. Foul language? Check. Drinking and drug use? Check. Wildly inappropriate sexual humor involving a baby? Check. Naked man jumping out of the trunk of a car and attacking people with a crowbar? Well, hey, it was Vegas. So how exactly do you top all of that insanity in a sequel? For the screenwriting team behind The Hangover Part II — director Todd Phillips and co-writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong — the only answer was to go for broke and explore the outer boundaries of what the MPAA would allow in terms of R-rated outrageousness. “We were given full license to push it to the limit,” Armstrong says. “The first Hangover almost had its own set of rules, and we definitely weren’t going to hold back on the second one.”
Setting the story in Bangkok, a city whose very name connotes danger and exotic pleasures, opened up whole new worlds of trouble for the movie’s main characters — Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — to get themselves into when they travel to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. “Todd said right from the start the sequel was going to be darker, it was going to be more dangerous, and it was going to be sicker,” says Mazin. “The experience the guys had in the first movie was traumatic, so to put them through that wringer again, it had to be even worse.” To that end, the three co-writers pushed each other to concoct the most extreme scenarios they could imagine. “Sometimes it would get competitive in the room,” says Armstrong. “You end up trying to outduel each other. That’s the most fun part.” Fortunately for them, the actors were totally game for whatever was thrown at them — perhaps none more than Ken Jeong, whose demented criminal Mr. Chow returns for the sequel. “Ken would literally do anything,” says Mazin. “I honestly believe if we said, ‘Ken, we actually need you to kill a human being in this scene for real,’ he would do it. His enthusiasm is unbounded.”
In the end, Phillips, Mazin, and Armstrong were able to get an R rating for The Hangover Part II without making any significant compromises, managing to squeeze in one especially raunchy scene (which we won’t spoil here) that’s bound to leave some in the audience gasping with laughter and some gasping with sheer horror. “Look, it’s not a porn movie,” Mazin says. “I don’t want to overstate what we’ve done here. The movie is for adults, but there’s nothing in it that’s going to shatter anyone’s world.” He pauses, then adds with a laugh, “Well, maybe that one scene.”
For more on The Hangover Part II, check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.