Andy Bockelman: At the box office: Second ‘Hangover’ has less potency
June 13, 2011
‘The Hangover Part II’
2.5 out of 4 stars
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis and Ken Jeong.
In any story, the opening sentences have to set the scene, with phrases like "Call me Ishmael," and "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," coming to mind.
When you hear something like, "It happened again…" there can be no doubt that you're watching "The Hangover Part II."
The last time Phil, Stu and Doug (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha) got together for a bachelor party, it was a disastrous night made all the worse by Doug's brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Now that Stu is ready to walk down the aisle at a Thailand resort, he wants nothing to disturb his big day, preferring to forget about a raucous boys' night out lest history repeat itself.
But, fate rears its ugly head when Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in a Bangkok rat hole, once again completely blank about the activities of the night before. While Doug isn't missing in action this time, another important member of the wedding party is, with Stu's fiancée's (Amber Chung) younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee) gone without a trace, except for a severed finger.
With Stu's nuptials approaching fast, the three friends must retrace their steps once again to find their misplaced comrade, with no leads beyond a tobacco-addicted capuchin monkey wearing a Rolling Stones vest and old friend from Las Vegas, gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), whose familiarity with the local scene — Holla, city of squalor! — may not be enough to get them back in time.
Helms takes center stage here as Stu, frantically trying to look worthwhile in the eyes of his disagreeable father-in-law (Nirut Sirijanya), who finds the newest member of his family to be as captivating as a rice bowl. But, maybe the sharp tribal face tattoo that Stu gets during the night out will prove him wrong.
Cooper and Galifianakis are just as you remembered them from the first film, with the exception that Alan had a full mane. But, despite an unexpected head buzz, you can still recognize him by his trademark facial hair.
Jeong comes off as less of a villain this time, doing more nice guy things like singing along with Jim Croce in the elevator, although that depends on how you judge people who carry a limitless supply of cocaine and seem to have an allergic reaction to wearing pants. Nobody wants to see that, man.
Lee, son of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" director Ang Lee, is fine in his film debut — unless you count his bit as a baby in dad's 1993 movie "The Wedding Banquet" — as meek Stanford student Teddy, whose presence drives Alan wild, fearing that his role in The Wolf Pack may be usurped.
But, don't you worry, bearded one — nobody can cause an international incident like you can.
The streets and back alleys of Southeast Asia are a lot more imposing than the tourist traps of The Strip, and in that respect, this sequel has one up on its original. However, the new filming location hardly makes that much difference when you don't change the story.
Director Todd Phillips makes exactly zero changes in the basic plot from the first movie, relying on the exact same sequence of events that made his initial "morning after comedy" such a sleeper hit.
In one way it works — it's just as funny, just as outrageous and just as bizarre in all the right places.
The problem is that it's precisely what we were expecting, something that you couldn't say back in 2009 after you left the theater. The first movie was genuinely surprising in all of its intended twists, and none of those shocks are here, making the viewing experience considerably less in the wow department.
Well, maybe Stu's hookup with a hooker this time takes things to a new plane of craziness, but that's about it. Since logic dictates that Alan should be the next to get married, perhaps the Wolf Pack's third outing will be more innovative.
My money's on Amsterdam.
"The Hangover Part II" isn't the first sequel to try and fail to recreate lightning in a bottle and it won't be the last. At least we can take comfort in the fact that these guys are capable of bringing the humor on command and can make even a terrible karaoke version of "One Night in Bangkok" worth a laugh.
That, and the universal truth that when a monkey nibbles on a particular male body part, it's funny in any language.
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