The Hangover Part II Review: Here we go again

When sequels come to theaters fans usually try to compare the second edition to its predecessor. In The Hangover Part II, director Todd Phillips forcibly wants us to remember the first movie’s formula. Believe me, and this may sound ironic, but we remember.

The stage is set two years after the Las Vegas fiasco, but this time dentist Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to a gorgeous Thai woman, Lauren (Jamie Chung). Her father does not approve of Stu, does not consider a dentist a doctor, and likens him to a mushy piece of rice. His son Teddy is his pride and glory, a 16 year old Pre-Med student at Stanford who can also play cello with the best of them. Stu then rounds up the crew, reluctantly offers Alan (Zach Galifianakis) an invitation to the wedding at the request of Doug (Justin Bartha), and they jet off to Bangkok.

Unhappy with Stu’s “Bachelor Brunch” idea from before, the “Wolf pack” coast down to the beach near their resort to have ONE beer. In typical Hangover fashion however, they awake the next morning in the same sprawled out positions as they did two years before, but this time the setting is no Caesar’s Palace. Phil (Bradley Cooper) awakes as the dawn breaks through a filthy cement hotel room, Alan’s head is shaved, Stu has a Tyson-esque tattoo on his face, and the only remnant of Stanford prize Teddy is his cut off, Cardinal ringed finger.

After Stu comes to grips with is new face-art, the three set out to pick up the pieces once again amidst the slums of Bangkok, and the first movie’s framework comes into place. Phone calls back to the bride and their formerly lost friend Doug re-punctuate the disbelieving or inevitable “How did we do this again” question.

The gang is led once again by the comedic styling of irreverent Alan, though he wouldn’t think his juvenile, sheltered self should elicit such laughs. Wearing a tourist stop sun hat, a T-Shirt with the portrait of a Labrador, and a love-connected monkey atop his shoulder, his image alone is enough to
snicker at, his teenage girl characteristics showing brightly. He calls himself a stay-at-home-son, and even in the underworld of Bangkok, he still feels entitled, frightfully undermining the sheer magnanimity of their time pressed situation, and yet loosening the mood when Stu is on the verge of returning with no brother-in-law in his possession.

What director Phillips loses in storyline surprise, he makes up for in shock value. Maybe the raunchiest movie certainly to his standard, the movie embraces its “R” rating, giving the term “strong sexual content” maybe not enough credit.  The majority of these below-the-equator shots come in the film’s signature credits, and like the first Hangover, the audience leaves with more startled incredulity.

It seems like this has become Phillips’ recent forte in movies. Resurrecting a tired storyline but filling it with enough gags and explosions to make everyone forget about its mimicking prowess. He tried it in Due Date, a reinterpretation of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but this sequel just two years apart from the original has many awfully familiar one-liners.

The change of scenery however does add a bit of “cayenne pepper,” a word Stu uses to re-label himself, to the wolf pack’s scavenger hunt. Disrupting worshipping monasteries, playing guitar in water taxis, and
sweating their alcohol out become the new norms under the burning sun of Bangkok.  Meet ups with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) invigorate deviations from the trio’s desired path and the search for last night’s rendezvous is not detailed with the same spirit that Las Vegas provided. Cameos from tattoo artist Nick Cassavetes and crime leader Paul Giamatti add to the comedic spices. They offer no help to the rescue of Teddy, claiming “Bangkok has him now,” a line frequently used to explain the ugly populated metropolis of the Asian city; of course we do only get to see the rough parts.

Cruder, raunchier, and a little more unsanitary, The Hangover Part II pummels its way past typical movie screen standards. Yet, for all of its “pow,” it lacks the Mike Tyson (he makes an appearance) punch that became such a knockout in 2009. It is one crazy, unspeakable night, but isn’t that what we were expecting?

P.S. I must admit, that 19 inning game the other night came close to being crazier.

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