Published May 26, 2011Stop me if you've heard this one before. Phil (Bradley Cooper) phones a wedding reception to warn them that a drunken bachelor party has gone cataclysmically out of hand and that neither he nor his friends ― sociopath man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and groom-to-be Stu (Ed Helms) ― will likely be able to attend.
See, they've been reconstructing a forgotten night of shameless debauchery, a series of crude misadventures involving gangsters, cops, drugs, prostitutes, kidnapping, theft and grievous bodily harm, resulting in the disappearance of one of their posse (in this case, Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law). In trying to retrieve this lost reveller, our heroes will tangle with the mob, share a few accusatory words, make up, race frantically to the wedding and, of course, finally see the pictures of their wild night in a closing credits montage so incredibly raunchy it plays like an assault on the senses.
"I can't believe this is happening again!," exclaims Stu early on. Tell me about it, brother. Less a sequel than a remake, or perhaps a distant echo, of the 2009 film, The Hangover Part II suggests the pilot episode of a TV spin-off: every week a new wedding and a new city, with different gangsters, prostitutes, celebrity cameos and closing-credits photo montages.
A joke is never very funny the second time around, and with Part II, director/co-writer Todd Phillips makes the additional miscalculation of filming in the Bangkok slums, with a sense of realism bordering on sadistic. Las Vegas (the setting of the original movie) may be seedy, but it also has a certain tacky glamour. This film's evocation of Bangkok ― all grimy motels, filthy streets and desperate-looking red-light districts ― is pungent with despair.
Still, it's hard to imagine this material working in any setting. Scene after scene falls flat: an encounter with a grizzled tattoo artist (Nick Cassavetes) is all set-up and no payoff; a visit to a brothel ends in a gay panic punch line both predictable and unpleasant; a stop-off at a monastery sees our heroes being beaten by a monk (because monks are usually peaceful); Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the flamboyant gangster, returns with the same shtick, only louder. The novelty of these characters has worn off and Galifianakis's Alan has become so cruel and self-centred it's hard to tell why the other two don't just ditch him on the streets.
Will anyone find this fun? Goodwill from the first film might make some people laugh when its gags are reprised wholesale, and the oppressive weight of Warner Brothers' marketing campaign might trick people into thinking they're having a good time. If they spend enough money to call this "the comedy event of the summer," people might believe them.
The Hangover Part II can be summed up by that scene in the monastery: it looks, feels, tastes and smells like comedy without ever actually being funny. (Warner)