“It happened again,” says Phil (Bradley Cooper) at the start of The Hangover Part II – perhaps an honest admission that the movie you are about to see is pretty much identical to the original R-rated comedy, which grossed a record-breaking $467 million worldwide. A severe bout of sequelitis afflicts this eagerly awaited but only sporadically amusing follow-up, which changes the locale from Las Vegas to Bangkok, but keeps the formula intact. On the eve of one of the wedding of one of their friends, Phil, Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach (Zach Galifianakis) wake up in a trashed hotel room with a monkey, a severed finger, an unconscious naked man (Ken Jeong) and absolutely no idea how they got there.
The set-up alone is indicative of the hashed-over nature of this for-the-money sequel: This premise doesn’t come close to the first film’s scenario, in which the men woke up in a Vegas hotel to find a live tiger in their bathroom and a baby in the closet. Much of The Hangover Part II, which does make effective use of its balmy, sweaty Bangkok setting, is equally underwhelming. The script feels like something written to fulfill a contract, not something born out of true inspiration. Visits to monk temples, tattoo parlors and strip clubs lack the surprise and ingenuity of the original, which was essentially a mystery where the protagonists tried to retrace their steps from the night before.
The characters do the same thing here, once again trying to find a missing member of the party (the bride-to-be’s younger brother), but the antics lack vigor (only a visit to a brothel delivers the kind of big, uproarious laughter that was so prevalent in the first film). The chemistry between the actors keeps the film from being a total wash-out: Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis work together like a practiced troupe of comedians, and their likability keeps the film afloat even after Russian mobsters and car chases take over. The more frantic and over the top The Hangover Part II tries to be, the wispier and unessential the movie becomes. The picture is destined to be a monster hit, but unlike the first one, this one does leave you with a hangover - of having been had.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mason Lee.
Director: Todd Phillips.
Screenwriters: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong.
Producers: Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg.
A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Running time: 102 minutes. Vulgar language, frequent frontal nudity, drug use, much reprehensible behavior. Opens Friday May 26 at area theaters.