- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen “The Hangover” was released in theaters in the summer of 2009, all director Todd Phillips could hope for was that his latest movie wouldn’t get completely lost in the shuffle of the big-budget tentpole films. But surprisingly, the movie was an overnight hit, eventually going on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time and practically guaranteeing the likelihood of a sequel. Not that anyone actually thought Phillips could pull it off, mind you, but just the idea of seeing the Wolfpack reunited for another night of drunken debauchery was enough to pique our interest. And as it turns out, it proved not to be such a bad idea after all, because while “The Hangover Part II” isn’t nearly as fresh or as funny as the original, it still gets plenty of good mileage out of what is essentially the exact same joke.
This time around, it’s Stu's (Ed Helms) turn to get married, with the wedding set to take place in Thailand at the behest of his fiancée Lauren's (Jamie Chung) parents. But Stu doesn’t want an elaborate bachelor party after what went down in Las Vegas, and instead settles for a quiet brunch with his two best friends. He hasn’t even invited Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to the wedding, but after much persuading by Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha), Stu agrees to let him tag along. When they arrive in Thailand, he's pressured into having a drink with the group to celebrate, only to wake up in the morning to discover that it’s happened all over again. Alan’s head has been shaved, Stu is sporting a replica of Mike Tyson’s infamous face tattoo, and Lauren’s baby brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), is missing, save for his ring finger, which Phil discovers floating in a bucket of water in a rundown Bangkok motel.
So yeah, it’s basically just a retread of the first film, and Phillips doesn’t try to hide it. In fact, he practically embraces the absurdity that this could happen to the same group of guys again by making their Las Vegas trip seem like child’s play in comparison. Even the structure of the movie (right down to the photo slideshow at the end) is the same, although their Bangkok adventure is considerably more depraved and demented, though not always for the better. There were a lot of moments in “The Hangover” that, no matter how insane they might have seemed at the time, could have actually happened. “Part II," however, requires you to suspend your disbelief a little too often, and in doing so, some of the humor feels forced. The introduction of a chain-smoking, drug-dealing monkey is never as funny as Phillips probably intended, while the inevitable cameo by Mike Tyson is just flat-out lazy. (And speaking of flat, his singing hasn't improved either).
Fortunately, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) returns as well, and he’s without a doubt one of the best parts about the film. Though I felt like the character came on a little too strong in the original, he’s exactly what the sequel needs – partly because he fits so well into the seedy Bangkok setting, but also because Jeong has really toned down the goofy Asian gangster shtick. The same can’t be said of Zach Galifianakis, however, who comes across even weirder and more awkward than before. The first act of the movie is almost unbearable because of him, and he would have ruined it entirely if Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms weren't around to balance out his aggressive personality. Helms, in particular, really steps up his game here. Not only does his character drive the plot, but he’s also the group’s moral core and an absolute riot to watch when he’s losing his shit – which, considering he receives the brunt of the misery in this one, is fairly often.
Even though the movie has some big laughs thanks to guys like Helms and Jeong, however, it doesn’t really do anything to set itself apart from the first film. Sure, there are new characters, and the situations that Phil, Stu and Alan get themselves into are even crazier, but at the end of the day, “The Hangover Part II” is almost an exact replica of its predecessor, only without the charm of experiencing it for the first time. You’ll still laugh, cringe, and have a good time, but unlike the original, it's not worthy of repeat viewings.