The Hangover Part II was always going to have a successful first weekend at the box office. The first film was a gleeful national landmark of bad behavior — remember when it had semi-serious Oscar buzz? — and it was the only non-superhero non-animated R-rated dude comedy in theaters (and will be until the decidedly weirder-looking Horrible Bosses arrives in July.) Still, even optimistic prognosticators have to be a bit surprised by just how well the film performed: as reported by EW’s John Young, the movie earned $137.4 in five days, the best opening frame ever for a live-action comedy and the second-biggest R-rated haul in history, behind only The Matrix Reloaded. And Reloaded was a mysterious, highly-anticipated sci-fi extravaganza four years in the making; Hangover 2 was essentially a remake-plus-Bangkok of a film that was basically Dude, Where’s My Car: Weekend in Vegas.
Critics were generally dismissive of the sequel — although EW movie critic Owen Gleiberman liked it just fine — but audiences clearly responded to The Hangover Part II. So how did it wind up doing so well? I’d point to three main factors. First, the marketing, which made the film look even more raw and weird than its predecessor. Look at the poster for the first Hangover: Sure, Bradley Cooper’s got some scratches, and Ed Helms is missing a tooth, but with the adorable little tyke in there you could practically be looking at a hipster remake of Three Men and a Baby — which by the way, elevator pitch! Now look at the poster for Part II: Galifianakis looks like a psychotic backwoods survivalist, Helms has that Tyson tattoo, Cooper just looks miserable, and they appear to be lying on the set of Hostel.
Secondly, the main trio of The Hangover have, between them, three uniquely perfect flavors of stardom. Cooper is the ascendant movie star, Helms is a quirky supporting actor on a TV show, and Galifianakis is a cult comedian who can absolutely crush a Saturday Night Live appearance — in short, a perfectly multi-demographic mix. It really does seem as if the movie offers something for everyone — eye candy, fratty humor — which brings us to the third reason The Hangover did so well: The franchise has already punctured in the rarified cinematic stratosphere of being less of a movie than an event. EW’s Hillary Busis compared the film to Sex and the City 2, which is uniquely spot-on: In the same sense that groups of women got together to watch the two SatC movies, groups of dudes can legitimately roll into a Friday-night screening of The Hangover Part II and expect a good time.
Did you see The Hangover Part II? Would you go to see a third movie? Do you look forward to a cultural moment far in the future when the Sex and the City and Hangover franchises cross over, Freddy vs. Jason-style?
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