Film Review: The Hangover Part II

Less a sequel than a remake, 'The Hangover Part II' brings the wedding smashers to Bangkok with more outrageousness but diminishing returns. Still, initial grosses will be explosive.

Looking to catch more buzz in a bottle, The Hangover Part II isn’t so much a sequel but a remake of the most successful R-rated comedy of all time. The 2009 original, with no established box-office names, drew tremendous word-of-mouth with its raunchy gags and clever mystery hook, as three bachelor-party celebrants desperately searched for the missing groom-to-be the morning after a wild Las Vegas night they couldn’t remember. The new film almost slavishly follows the same formula: another wedding, another drugging, another exotic animal, more nasty criminals and more pure chaos, only this time set in the famously hedonistic city of Bangkok, Thailand. The novelty quotient is gone and the action sometime lags, but Part II delivers enough outrageousness to satisfy summer audiences who don’t mind some déjà vu in their debauchery.

The pending nuptials this time are those of Stu (Ed Helms), the milquetoast dentist who ironically lost a tooth in the tumult of the first film. Stu is now engaged to a beautiful Thai woman, and the wedding is set to take place in a picturesque resort on the southern coast of Thailand. In an amusing scene, Stu gathers his friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) at an IHOP and announces that this is the bachelor party, so traumatized is he from their last blowout. But Stu’s careful plans are wrecked when Doug insists that his brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) be invited to the wedding—the same Alan whose drugs led to disaster in Vegas. Galifianakis again steals the movie with his portrayal of this weird, selfish, irresponsible man-child, a “stay-at-home son” who treats his compliant mom as his personal servant.

In Thailand, Stu must also deal with his very judgmental future father-in-law Fohn (Nirut Sirichanya) and comparisons with Fohn’s teenage-prodigy son Teddy (Mason Lee), a pre-med student who also happens to be a virtuoso cellist.

Despite all of Stu’s precautions, an innocent outing to the beach leads to a hell of a morning after, as Stu, Phil and Alan wake up in a fog in a disgusting hotel room in Bangkok, with a capuchin monkey as company. Alan’s head has been shaved, Stu’s teeth are intact but he has Mike Tyson’s famed tattoo on his face, there’s a severed finger sitting in a bowl of water, and Chow (Ken Jeong), the cackling small-time crook from their Vegas misadventure, is lying on the floor. Oh, and Teddy is missing.

Thus another amateur mystery investigation is set in motion, as the self-proclaimed “Wolfpack” frantically searches for Teddy and crosses paths with Russian drug dealers, stick-wielding Buddhist monks, transvestite hostesses, and a crime boss played by Paul Giamatti. Director Todd Phillips and co-writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong have clearly upped the ante here, with more full-frontal nudity, more squalor and violence, and even more serious consequences for their characters. But more isn’t necessarily better; the Wolfpack’s Bangkok odyssey is at times so unpleasant, you start to forget you’re watching a comedy. As the action and bedlam accelerate, the air begins to escape this calculated retread of the first big success.

Still, audiences will bring lots of goodwill to the movie’s three lead actors, who are all much bigger stars a mere two years later. Handsome Cooper anchors the film as the level-headed straight man who’s still up for a good time when it doesn’t involve gangsters or misplacing friends; Helms has refined the art of taking a mild-mannered schlemiel into full panic mode; and Galifianakis is in an eccentric class by himself. Jeong, a fan favorite, treads dangerously into Asian-stereotype territory, but he seems to be in on the joke.

Very handsomely filmed on location by cinematographer Lawrence Sher, The Hangover Part II has more production value than a down-and-dirty comedy probably deserves. But that’s what a $467 worldwide gross will get you.