I wasn’t that big a fan of the first Hangover. Sure, it had its laugh out loud moments, a few good OMFG shocks here and there, a sincerely nice stripper just looking for the right guy, and it launched Zach Galifianakis’ career. But despite all of this, the surreality of actually believing that three men can undergo an night that includes stealing a tiger from Mike Tyson’s home and sneaking the animal into the penthouse suite of the Caesar’s palace while being so effed up that they can’t remember a thing the next day was a too big a suspension of disbelief for me. I laughed, but I could not shake up the feeling that it could have had much more to offer. The Hangover Part II tries really hard to recreate the spontaneity, absurdity, and laughs of the first; it manages it at times, but on most tries it misses by a long shot. The result is a lesser carbon copy of the first that is missing the one thing that did make the first Hangover memorable, freshness.
From the moment it opens The Hangover Part II follows the structure and plot of the first one. Once again the opening credits scroll through wedding preparations and end when Phil (Bradley Cooper) calls Tracey (Sasha Barrese) to inform her “it happened again”. That is actually the first English spoken line in the movie. We flashback a few days earlier as the wolfpack gets together once more time as they make their way to a wedding. This time it is Stu’s (Ed Helms) wedding; the meek dentist, who is rapidly discovering the demon within him, is marrying in Thailand because… well because the writers needed another Sin City capable of topping Vegas, and Amsterdam, despite the legality of weed and prostitution there, is actually relatively quiet. Bangcock on the other hand provides a truly dark antagonist to the movie. Regardless, the odd group of friends travels to Thailand. And two days before the wedding they enjoy a few beers with Teddy (Mason Lee), the bride’s brother at the beach.
The next morning they wake up in downtown Bangcock, in a shady hotel alongside a jean jacket wearing monkey and Mr. Chow (Ken Jong), the Vegas mob-boss form the first movie. To make matters worse Teddy is nowhere to be found but Doug (Justin Bartha) is, somehow, safely back at the hotel. And of course they do not remember anything.
Does this look familiar?
The whole movie feels like déjà vu. We have been there; done that and it isn’t near as funny the second time around. The movie retains almost the same sequence of scenes from the first one down to the eventual payoff; I’ll just say Teddy is in the first place they did not look. It pushes to create a bigger raunch-fest than the first one but it stumbles and it only delivers some really awkward moments where we are forced to laugh to avoid embarrassment. This is not comedy; it is cheap writing.
There are however a few plusses. The film does provide a bit more character development than its predecessor. Stu, the only fleshed out character, last time around, is once again thrown into a situation no dentist belongs in. It suffices to say that by the end he deserves the Tyson tattoo on his face. Teddy also provides a much-needed line in the first one, and even without him being on screen much of the movie; he is a likable addition to the wolfpack. But even yet if falls way short of its full potential. Once again I left the theater thinking, it could have been much more. They could have at least tried.