By definition, a sequel is just more of the same. In the case of The Hangover Part II, that's a very welcome redundancy indeed. It's almost unnecessary to review this latest bachelor-party-gone-ballistic comedy. If you loved the first one, you'll really enjoy this one. If the scatological adventures of the Wolf Pack and their post-debauchery regret left you cold -- well, you're probably not interested in this revisit anyway. This time around, things are darker, more daring, and just a tad redundant. Still, Part II makes an excellent companion piece to the original, still one of the new millennium's classic comedies.
Our story once again centers around some nuptials. This time, divorced dentist Dr. Stuart Price (Ed Helms) is getting married to his Asian sweetheart, Lauren (Jamie Chung). Required by her brutish dad to have the ceremony in Thailand, our sheepish DDS agrees to take pals Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and -- reluctantly at first -- eccentric oddball Alan (Zach Galifianakis) with him. Once there, they decide to have a nice bonfire on the beach to celebrate Stu's big day. Twenty-four hours later, the gang wakes up in a squalid Bangkok hotel. There, they discover a cute little monkey, their crazy criminal "friend" from the trip to Vegas, Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), and a horrible truth: Lauren's little brother Teddy (Mason Lee), a teen they were left in charge of, the absolute apple of his demanding father's eye, has gone missing...and might be dead.
It goes without saying that The Hangover Part II is funny. You can't place these characters in the situations that Todd Phillips and his writers do and not elicit a few dozen deep belly laughs. This is a raw, repellent road trip where the passengers are always paying for their lack of discretion and control. At the wheel is Cooper, doing the best straight man stint this side of a carnal "Who's on First?" He feeds Helms and Galifianakis, bringing out the best in their contrasting yet often complementary personality quirks. Stu is the buttoned-down dork who really wants to break free. Here, he finally accepts his antsy inner demon. Similarly, Alan is still all unfiltered Id. Everything he thinks, everything he says comes from a skewed perspective that views the world in a wild, naively off-kilter fashion.
Since his actors have inhabited these characters before, Phillips lets them explore the limits of their various qualities. He then implements a series of set-pieces that push the audience further and further into the extremes. From face tattoos and crotch-obsessed monkeys to a discussion in a Thai strip club that's way too revealing, these are smart gross-out gags. Instead of just hurling gratuitousness at the screen, Phillips presents people we care about. He understands that once our sympathies settle with Stu, Alan, and Phil, we will relish every repulsive thing that happens to them. Sure, a few of the scenes don't work (the silent monks are monotonous) and a couple are just present to remind us of the basic Hangover premise, but the majority are prime.
What this update is truly missing, however, is a surprise moment of surrealism, like the original's left field inclusion of Mike Tyson as part of the proceedings. Here, all we get are Nick Cassavetes (as a less-than-impressive tattoo artist) and Paul Giamatti. Huh? Where's the stoner spit-take "wow" factor in that? Those sequences needed someone like the previously announced (and then dismissed) Mel Gibson to give them the giddy stunt allure they demand. Without them, The Hangover Part II has to rely solely on the strategy that made the first film into a worldwide phenomenon. Lucky us.
The Hangover Part II
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