Two years on from their foggy night of debauchery in Sin City, the Wolfpack are back, this time to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of mild-mannered dentist Stu in Thailand. At first reluctant to invite Alan along (given his tendency to drug his supposed buddies for life), he soon joins the others on their journey to the exotic location.
So far so roofie-free, although the characters make constant reference to the drug (is this to remind audience members who have forgotten the catalyst for the first film’s exploits?). As expected however, things run far from smooth, and Stu, Alan and Phil wake up on the morning following an innocent evening of beers on the beach, to find themselves in a dank Bangkok hotel room with no memory of how they got there, and missing a vital part of the wedding party, in the form of Stu’s 16-year-old future brother-in-law.
Once again, the trio are forced to piece together what happened during the previous night, and with an elderly wheelchair-bound Buddhist monk (who has taken a vow of silence) replacing the baby from the original, they set off on a journey to unearth the whereabouts of their lost member before the that all-important wedding date.
Perhaps fearing that any deviation from the first film’s winning formula would run the risks of alienating the attended audience, The Hangover Part II (since when has this type of film been deemed worthy of roman numerals?) hits not a few, but all the same beats as the original. Slo-mo group shot to Kanye West song – check. Red herring thrown in towards the end before mystery is solved and lost character is promptly found – check. Run-in with a prostitute who captures Stu’s heart (the film’s most excruciating scene) – check. Mike Tyson cameo – check. Every conceivable reference to the first film is back.
These familiar set-ups would be entirely excusable if the film was constantly funny, but the fact is, it barely comes to life. Everyone gives it their all (although Zach Galifianakis’ man-child routine is wearing slightly thin now) and the introduction of a smoking, drug-dealing monkey is always a welcomed sight (!), but the film-makers insistence in sticking so close to the original means you’re always pre-empting the funny moments (which are never as humorous as the film thinks they are), and just by referencing incidents from the previous film doesn’t necessarily invoke laugher.
Diminutive, yappy criminal Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) returns too, and although his entrance isn’t as contrived as it could have been, aside from a couple of funny moments, the character seems to have been brought back purely to say funny things in that exaggerated accent of his. You can almost imagine filmmaker Todd Philips giving direction to the otherwise talented Jeong with the words: “Just do your thing, it’ll be fine. Action!”
Justin Bartha must be seriously upset with the hand he’s been dealt here too. To add further insult to injury, the lost member of the pack this time around is Stu’s aforementioned potential family member, and Bartha isn’t even part of the trio’s escapades and instead, is relegated to the feeble role of their point of contact at the wedding location. Look’s like its time to have that long chat with his agent about a lack of career progression.
Like Due Date, Philips knows how to get those stunning wide screen vistas, and the film captures a suitably dirty and crowded look to Bangkok, which at first presents a potential darker and sinister conundrum for the Wolfpack to negotiate themselves around. Unfortunately, we’re treated to the same old tired western-enforced stereotypes which aren’t particulary humorous after seeing them hundreds of times before in numerous guises.
When it’s left to the discovered images of the lost night (yep, they’re revealed at the end again!) to provide the film’s biggest laughs, you know you’re in trouble. If the film had been able to capture even a semblance of the outrageous activities in the photos, it could have been a riot. Instead, all that’s on offer is an uninspired retread of the original.
If you thought the first Hangover was some kind of modern comedic masterpiece you may enjoy what’s on offer here, but if curiosity is your main driving force in seeing this, save your hard-earned money for the upcoming roster of funnier-looking and, more importantly, original comedies on the way this summer.