Every year when the weather turns warm, we tend to look forward to our favorite things about the summer season. BBQ, hanging by the pool, and long summer nights are just a few things that come to mind. But with those unfortunately there also comes burnt food, burnt skin, and hungry mosquitoes. Same goes for the summer movies. For every blockbuster, Hollywood churns out a quick buck flick that looks to capitalize on audiences heading in droves to the theaters. And what is the one constant you can count on every year? Yes, that’s right – the summer movie sequel, and this Memorial Day weekend, we get two of them.
For all the problems that exist with the movie sequel, there are some upsides. For one, we’re already familiar with all the main characters, so establishing a relationship is not an issue. And if those characters charmed us once, chances are we’re going to give them a little leeway when it comes to the second time around, and that’s a good thing when it comes to The Hangover Part II. For a movie that brings back our perpetually red-eyed friends for another round of adventures the day after, they must think that we in the audience must be suffering from some sort of alcohol induced amnesia as well, because this second installment brings on a lot of déjà vu. Our friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are reunited two years after their Vegas hijinks to celebrate Stu’s (Ed Helms) wedding in Bangkok, Thailand, and after a low-key bonfire on the beach somehow goes awry, the gang (minus Doug) wakes up the next morning in a rundown hotel room in the heart of Bangkok, with no recollection of how they got there, and the bride’s underage brother missing. This is where the movie begins to follow the same arc of the previous installment: instead of Stu waking up with a missing tooth, he’s got a Mike Tyson face tattoo, and instead of a cute little baby with sunglasses, there’s a cute little monkey with a Rolling Stones jean jacket. Oh, and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is back for an encore to provide a bit of humor and to work as a much needed plot device. But if you enjoyed the first Hangover, you’ll inevitably like the second one; it’s essentially the same movie. The jokes are a bit more over the top and the plot is extremely predictable, but it’s fun to see the fellas back in action, and Zack Galifianakis is still on top of his game, so despite running the same road, we’ll still tie one on and join our three best friends for another round of “so what the hell happened last night?!”
Also opening up this weekend is another sequel that is leaps and bounds from The Hangover Part II – Kung Fu Panda 2. Back again is Jack Black as panda warrior Po, and his A-List warrior friends, voiced by Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen and David Cross. In the first one, Po trained with his kung fu master, but this time around he’s a seasoned pro, and must band together to stop a villain who plans to unleash a new weapon that would render kung fu utterly useless (my guess is the weapon is a firearm, which pretty much did end any kind of hand-to-hand combat). And while Po the panda is a formidable fighter this time around, he still bumbles his way through the movie, and of course there are plenty of fat jokes to fill in the gaps. A fun movie voiced by some of today’s comedic masters, but a sequel nonetheless, so look for more of the same.
In limited release: If you’re looking for something truly original this weekend, check out The Tree of Life, by director Terrence Malick. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, the film follows the lives of a family with three boys growing up in the 50’s, and intercuts them with surreal scenes from this world and cosmic glories. Winner of the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Malick creates a beautiful movie that should be the cold salve on the hot sunburn of the summer movie sequels.