What makes The Hangover Part II work, in a formulaic way, is that it never deviates from the things that made the first movie so surprisingly good. What makes The Hangover Part II not work is that it never deviates from the things that made the first movie so surprisingly good. I suppose one could say you cannot have your cake and eat it too. In all actuality though, this unnecessary yet inevitable sequel (and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a third installment) isn't really all that bad. Perhaps not up to the insane quality of the first one (a film I did not expect to like at all but ended up getting the biggest kick out of) this sequel is nonetheless quite funny in parts, even if it lacks in others.
Taking the "party" from Vegas to Bangkok, this sequel puts our intrepid, roofied wolf pack in yet another fine mess that has them scrambling all across the storied Thai city for clues as to what has happened the night before - and as like last time, the whereabouts of a missing person in their "party." In Thailand for the wedding of Stu (Ed Helms) and his girlfriend Lauren (Jamie Chung, last seen in the dreadful Sucker Punch), the so-called wolf pack is reunited. After what seems to be a safe and quite innocent night on the beach (yeah right), Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a steamy, trashed Bangkok hotel room with a monkey in a denim jacket, a Mike Tyson tattoo and no recollection of the previous night - oh yeah, and Lauren's sixteen year old genius brother Teddy is missing, leaving behind just his finger with his Stanford class ring still around it. Not to purposely paraphrase Britney Spears but, oops, they did it again.
Using the same jokes as the first time around one would think this film wouldn't fly (and to many of my fellow critical compatriots, it does not) but overall it does fly - albeit at a pretty low altitude (as did the first one really) but it does fly. The main reasoning behind the film's ability to entertain, even though director Todd Phillips hasn't really broken new ground here, are the performers. Leading man Cooper is the grounding force while Helms plays at tragi-comedy (and does it with a sort of sad, understated brilliance) and Galifianakis does what Galifianakis does - whatever the hell that may be. The bearded comic's man-child routine probably wouldn't work from anybody else (though Will Ferrell can pull it off on occasion) but somehow he makes it work to usually hilarious (though filled to the brim with pathos) results.
Sure, the film plays a bit too much at the bathroom humour so unfortunately prevalent in what pass for Hollywood comedies these days and the character of Chow could be dropped completely (Ken Jeong is beyond annoying - and I don't mean the purposeful, funny kind of annoying - I just mean annoying) and as I said before, Phillips isn't exactly re-inventing the wheel here, but still the movie is a fun romp of comic debauchery - not really much inferior to the original. Then again, if you happen to be one of those who found the first Hangover to be nothing more than an ugly, raunchy, misogynistic gross-out comedy (and many did just that) then you probably won't like this one any better. Still though, despite its flaws and same-old-same-old storytelling (not to mention its rather silly, trite ending), it is a pretty funny movie throughout - and you get a cigarette-smoking monkey to boot. [06/07/11]