It’s a given that boys will be boys with bruising consequences again in Todd Phillips’ latest comedy outrage, “The Hangover Part II.”
The title after all is a pretty straightforward declaration that this is the fully warranted sequel to the writer-director’s 2009 surprise runaway smash hit about three guys who wake up in a trashed Las Vegas hotel room feeling the crushing morning-after effects of a mobile night on the town they can’t remember, and their frantic efforts to retrace their drugged and drunken path of destruction and find their missing bridegroom buddy, control all the damage and get him to the wedding on time.
But the comic shots in this second serving are watered down by a funky tasting formulaic sameness, the formula being a part-by-part remix of the same narrative cocktail Phillips poured in the first round.
The laughs are here to be sure, especially in the shaggy, portly form of Zach Galifianakis as Alan, the self-described “stay-at-home-son” of rich, doting parents who wants desperately to be accepted by his brother-in-law, Doug (Justin Bartha), and Doug’s best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms). Unfortunately (and hilariously), he’s prone to appallingly inappropriate and childish behavior that kind of puts everyone off.
But it’s deja vu all over again from the opening fade-in, with a bedraggled and borderline-panicked Phil on the phone to his wife, trying to explain why he and his buddies have been absent all night from the scene of a wedding that is now only hours away. Just as before, the reason for Phil’s distress is that one of his hard-partying companions is missing and possibly kidnapped, dead or at least grievously injured.
Once again, ringleader Phil, milquetoasty Stu and weird Alan — the “Wolf Pack” as Alan has dubbed his crew — are tasked with tracking down clues to the nature of the previous night’s bachelor party debauchery and the whereabouts of a lost sidekick.
What’s different this time is the setting, switched from Vegas to Bangkok, and Stu’s the one who’s getting married, to a beautiful Asian-American girl named Lauren (Jamie Chung), despite his tenuous relationship with his future father-in-law, Fohn (Nirut Sirichanya), a stern traditionalist who thinks Stu is something less than a man.
And this time the missing person is Fohn’s favorite son, Teddy (Mason Lee), a teenage academic and artistic genius who’s escaped daddy’s watchful eye to tag along with Phil and company and discover the forbidden wonders of a grown-up boys’ night out.
It all starts out harmlessly enough when straight-arrow Stu — still gun-shy from his experience in Vegas — insists that his bachelor party consist of nothing more than one bottle of beer apiece, in sealed containers that can’t be spiked with any disaster-triggering drugs like last time.
And that’s the last thing anyone remembers when they wake up the next morning in another trashed room, this time in the middle of one of Bangkok’s most infamous districts. Instead of discovering a tiger in the bathroom and a baby in the closet, they find a high-strung, cigarette-smoking monkey swinging from the rafters, a severed finger in a bowl that appears to belong to the missing Teddy, and a crazed Mr. Chow (the hilarious Ken Jeong, reprising his role as the effeminate, psychotic “international criminal” the guys encountered in the first film).
Also, Stu has acquired a tattoo on his face, and Alan has shaved his head.
Of course that’s only the beginning of the overnight horrors that have transpired, as the guys soon learn when they meet a menacing mobster named Kingsley (a memorable turn by Paul Giamatti), a stripper named Kimmy (Yasmin Lee) who’s not what she seems (much to Stu’s dismay), and a gang of murderous drug dealers out to nail the guys for stealing their monkey.
As in the original film, the depiction of male friendship has genuine heart, the raunchiness is rampant and refreshingly unapologetic as scripted by Phillips, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, and Part II does have its share of guilty comedic pleasures. But the laughs don’t come as frequently or quite as uproariously as they did during the Vegas shenanigans because the writers have tried too hard to duplicate the magic of part one and have ended up producing what amounts to an elaborate rewrite of the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. Its devoted audience has already been there, done that.
— Gene Triplett
“The Hangover Part II”
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Mason Lee, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Giamatti.
(Pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images)