Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Hangover Part II: A Sequel Playing it Safe

Barbeques, the beach, and the upcoming summer are what most of us associate with Memorial Day Weekend. If we’re lucky enough to have that Monday off, we view the holiday as vacation. The last thing on our minds is payday. Unless of course we’re a major movie studio and we plan to premier the most anticipated sequel of the summer, Hangover Part II. And payday it was.
Ed Helms at the premiere for The Hangover.Image via Wikipedia
The movie, starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms, broke box office records. Ousting top-earner Paranormal Activity with its $6.3 million midnight opening, the Hangover Part II took in $10. 4 million during the midnight launch alone. The film also broke the records for highest-grossing opening day for a live-action comedy, as well as highest-grossing opening day for an R-rated comedy film.

So what was the secret to this sequel’s success? Why do some continuations, from Grease to Superman to Star Wars disappoint fans while others just work? Some sequels have different characters while others portray the original leading character during another time in their life. To prolong the plot or to present a new dilemma are often decisions a studio must make.

In this case, the producers had to top their mega hit with funnier, raunchier, crazier scenes. But, they played it safe. With an essentially identical plot and character lineup, they already had the tools needed for success. Again, the gang travels, this time to Bangkok, for a bachelor party. Roofies, alcohol and strippers fuel another mischief-filled evening, the details of which are once more forgotten the next day. Someone goes missing, and the trio must use their collective memory to recall the previous night’s details. Sounds familiar, right?

Anticipation from promotional tours, preview clips, and the desire to repeat a positive movie experience drew crowds to the theatres. Despite having practically already seen the movie, audiences loved the Bangkok version. Word of mouth, together with polarized reviews, shot the movie to its top spot at the box office that weekend. Even those who gave the movie a terrible rating sparked curiosity in some moviegoers.
LAS VEGAS - MAY 15:  Actor Justin Bartha (L) a...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Loved it or hated it, if you saw the Hangover Part II over Memorial Day Weekend, you helped it break records. The sequel formula may be forever changed; it is clear that a hit movie's structure should be followed to ensure success with its follow up. With a new Men in Black currently filming, we'll see if other movie producers take a nod from the Hangover franchise.