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Monkey trouble?: 'The Hangover Part II' raises concerns from animal rights advocates

(Melinda Sue Gordon)

The Hangover Part II director Todd Phillips says he was just monkeying around when he told EW (in our current cover story) and another publication that the film’s scene-stealing, drug-dealing capuchin monkey, Crystal, had been taught to smoke cigarettes for the film and then gotten addicted to them. The truth, according to Phillips and Warner Bros. is that, while Crystal appears to smoke in the film, she never actually held a lit cigarette on the film’s set – the smoke was added digitally in post-production. Still, animal rights advocates aren’t amused. A spokesperson for the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals on nearly 2,000 film and television sets every year, says the organization offered to visit the movie’s set in Thailand but was turned down – and that the group has not been granted a screening of the film. As a result, The Hangover Part II (unlike the first Hangover) will not carry the AHA’s familiar “no animals were harmed” disclaimer.

At the same time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Ingrid Newkirk tells EW her organization wrote a letter to Phillips protesting Crystal’s appearance in the film. While Newkirk believes Phillips was only joking about the cigarette smoking (“he would have been locked up if anybody on the set had turned him in”), she says any use of exotic animals for entertainment purposes is “of grave concern” to PETA: “Monkeys are wild. They don’t want to be doing the same things over and over, they’re easily upset, they don’t want to be under the bright lights, they don’t want to be in the cage.” Newkirk says the group is particularly upset about the monkey being used in connection with sexual humor: “A joke is a joke, and we have a great sense of humor, but leave the animals out of it.”

Warner Bros. says Crystal (who has also appeared in the Night at the Museum films, among other movies) was always treated with the utmost care during production on The Hangover Part II. Still, if some animal-rights advocates don’t approve of what they see when the film opens on May 26, they will undoubtedly make their opinions heard.

Originally posted May 14 2011 — 10:00 AM EDT

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