What do you do when you’ve made the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever? Well, you make a sequel and hope you strike gold one more time.
And thus we have The Hangover Part II. Todd Phillips reunites the Wolfpack once again for yet another pre-wedding day disaster, this time set in the seedy underbelly of Bangkok. Stu (Ed Helms) prepares to marry anew, and much to the dismay of Phil (Bradley Cooper), intends to avoid any and all possibility of a repeat of his last bachelor party by, well, not having one.
With a last minute, half-hearted wedding invite to Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the entire gang is on their way to Thailand. Following an uncomfortable dinner with the family of Stu’s soon-to-be wife Lauren (Jamie Chung) at the resort they are to wed, Stu is convinced to allow Lauren’s younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee) to accompany the boys to a simple beach bonfire with only a six pack to split between them.
…and then The Hangover happens, or at least a pretty pale shadow of it.
The Hangover Part II isn’t a bad film, but it’s certainly not attempting to break new ground. Granted, you can make the argument that there really isn’t any reason to, but if you’re going to use the same formula — you’d better come extra hard with the laughs, cameos, and twists. Sadly, I get the impression that most of what was written was an attempt to capitalize on the glowing embers of a movie that’s already been done before, and better, rather than up the ante and do something better.
That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have some laugh-out-loud moments; they’re simply spread out and sparse. While Zach Galifianakis is probably the most one-note comedic actor since Jack Black, his awkward, eccentric man-child shtick is once again perfectly suited for the screenwriting. Dude can make a quick line about a bag of soda chuckle-worthy, and his timing is spot-on. I love Ed Helms, and there isn’t much he can do wrong in my eyes. He’s a great straight man, and as before, his reaction to the constant barrage of insanity that befalls him makes for good times. Sadly, that constant barrage consists mostly of weak, easily telegraphed moments that simply lack the punch of the original film. Finally, Bradley Cooper’s Phil feels wasted because his interactions and lines are built mostly as plot devices to move the story along. Sure, that needs to happen, but putting so much on Cooper turned him into a shell of his former character.
Of course we can’t have a Hangover film without Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), though I will submit that we can totally have a Hangover film without Ken Jeong’s penis. I’m just putting that out there (much like Ken Jeong’s penis). Still, fella was funny, and he got some solid moments during the movie.
All-in-all The Hangover Part II is a decent comedy that simply had too much to live up to. Sequels to wildly popular films rarely catch lightning in a bottle, and this second installment is no different. Switching continents and turning the story into a fish-out-of-water scenario for the gang just wasn’t enough of a spin to make this feel like it was trying to do something more than put new tread on an already functional tire. I certainly wouldn’t talk anyone out of seeing the movie, but I do think prospective viewers would be just as happy popping in their DVD of the first film.
The Upside: Ed Helms is great as the perpetually horrified Stu, and Zach Galifianakis is a fun lunatic.
The Downside: Nothing new to see here, folks.
On the Side: Only this film could make a comedic reference to the assassination of a Viet Cong so funny that I laughed until I cried. Am I going to hell? You’ll probably join me.