Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha
The boys are back, this time heading to Thailand for Stu’s (Ed Helms’) wedding. Things go perfectly and the film ends after 20 minutes. Nah – they all get wasted again and wake up in a disgusting hotel room again and have to locate a missing companion. Again.
After the runaway success of The Hangover back in 2009, it was a foregone conclusion that a sequel would surface sooner rather than later. Well it has arrived and while we might expect some continuity between adjacent episodes in a series a little originality wouldn’t have gone awry.
The Hangover Part II is a mercenary retread of the original – down to the moment to moment structuring of its events. The Hangover Part II is not so much a sequel as a copy which transplants the same cast to a new location and runs them through an eerily similar gauntlet to a ridiculously familiar end point.
At least the opening holds a little promise; expanding on the world and giving Doug (Justin Bartha) a token amount of screen time as the trio are forced to allow Alan (Zack Galifianakis) back into their lives. Then it’s off to Thailand to a mean-spirited future father in law and a frankly preposterous engagement between 28 year old Jamie Chung and 37 year old man child Helms.
A toast and some time lapse footage later, we’re greeted to a bleary-eyed awakening in a Bangkok hotel room. Stu is disfigured, there’s an animal in the bathroom (this time a monkey) and one of their number is missing – this time Chung’s kid brother Teddy (Mason Lee). The gang head out onto the streets to reconstruct their night in order to find Teddy and get him back in time for his sister’s wedding.
Part II’s stunning lack of originality wouldn’t be such a problem if it worked a little better as a comedy. The opening scenes are improbably dry, apart from a glimpse at Alan’s home life, and the film makes the fatal mistake of assuming that Ed Helms yelling is the height of hilarity. It isn’t. Worse still, it confronts us with death and missing digits in its opening moments and later flaunts scenes of full frontal nudity in several exchanges that are in genuinely poor taste.
With a bigger budget and some gifted actors, director Todd Phillips owed it to his fans to make something of this sequel. But he hasn’t even got the guts to alter his formula in any significant way, even resorting to lazy plotting in order to isolate Bartha from the group. The characters are chronically undernourished; Cooper doesn’t even wolf whistle and there’s no significant connection to extraneous characters.
Galifianakis at least brings some eccentricities to the role, looking more comfortable here than he has in any part since The Hangover. He gets many of the best gags (including a bizarrely off centre flashback) and plays crazy like few men alive. Returning Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is probably the highlight of the film, playing up his character to ludicrous extremes in his newly (mostly) benign role. A cameo from Paul Giamatti is forgettable while actor and director (of The Notebook, no less) Nick Cassavetes steps in to replace Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson but lacks the gravitas to make the throwaway character worthwhile.
The Hangover Part II has a few spare moments of humour but the plotting and the characterisations are so dull that you’ll find little to sustain your attention between giggles. With this and the disappointing Due Date, it’s beginning to look like Phillip’s first hungover adventure was a one off occurrence.