The Wolfpack is back in "The Hangover Part II," but what happened in Bangkok should have stayed in Bangkok. The sequel to the wildly successful first outing, which made more than $450 million worldwide at the box office, will probably rake in the cash this Memorial Day weekend, but this is a film best forgotten.
Sequels are fun and worthwhile when something in the lineup changes -- a twist in the story, perhaps. But "The Hangover Part II" suffers from being a carbon copy imitator of its first incarnation, yet not nearly half as witty.
You remember the rundown of the first one. Four middle-aged friends plan on having a night of fun to celebrate one of the pack's next-day wedding (in the first one it was Doug, in this one it's Stu). They wake up in a hotel room with no recollection of the night before. Someone in the clan is missing and they spend the next 24 hours trying to retrace steps to find out what went down, while trying to locate the lost packman. Meanwhile, the wedding looms.
As a way to fake moviegoers into thinking they aren't seeing the same cookie-cutter film as the highly original 2009 outing, the sequel makes some slight changes: the fellas go to Thailand instead of Las Vegas. And this time, the missing isn't the groom, but the groom's future brother-in-law (Mason Lee, Ang Lee's son), who is a 16-year-old musical and medical prodigy.
So when you run out of ideas, what's next? Apparently, "The Hangover" crew decided to go for the sick and twisted. This isn't a fun night of frat boy bachelor shenanigans like stealing Mike Tyson's tiger or participating in a quickie wedding at a Las Vegas strip mall chapel.
"The Hangover 2" is darkly assaulting, vile and absolutely unlikeable. Forced and offensive, the filmmakers push the R-rated envelope and cross the line of what's appropriate with way too many scenes that may play fine to the college crowd, but will have mainstream audiences (warning: this is not a good date night movie) checking their watches and seriously pondering heading for the door.
A smoking monkey (his actual smoking is computer generated, filmmakers say) who has also been trained to locate male genitalia (there's a lot of full frontal male nudity in this film) is Alan's playmate instead of Carlos the baby from the first one. And Heather Graham's chipper stripper is replaced by a Thai transvestite that is given freak show status.
The characters, while somewhat likeable in their naivete in the first go-around, are such absolute blazing idiots in the second film that they don't even deserve to make it back to safer ground.
Bradley Cooper, whose character, Phil, was slickly written as the pack leader in the first film, is reduced to a "CSI: Bangkok" detective, sniffing out clues and taking names. Perhaps the most character damage, however, has been done to offbeat Alan (Zach Galifianakis), which made the first "Hangover" so fun.
In another, "Ha! We fooled you!" moment by the scriptwriters, the original Alan surfaces in the beginning of the movie dressed in tennis whites and using an intercom in his parent's house to order food from his mom. "I'm a stay-at-home son," he wryly says. Now, that's the Alan we know and love. Yet shortly after he wakes up in Bangkok with a shaven head, his hair and his quirky personality have all but disappeared. Sure, the Jonas Brother fanboy who idolizes "Rainman" was a total pain in the keester in the original, but the sequel turns him into borderline mentally challenged.
Ed Helms as Stu tries his darndest to make something more than sticky rice out of the one-dimensional character he's given, but can't escape and delivers a uni-level performance made up of screaming at the top of his lungs. Doug (Justin Bartha) pops up now and again to talk to the lost boys on the telephone. He's totally dispensable. High-voiced gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) returns with more manic hyperactivity than ever. A chubby Paul Giamatti as a crime lord, and Nick Cassavetes (who replaced Mel Gibson) as a tattoo artist are the only new characters and not very memorable. In fact, Tyson's follow-up cameo is one of the very few highlights.
While everyone was hoping for a "Hangover" knockout, this retread is delivered like bad leftovers -- days old Thai food that's lost all of its spice leaving some mysterious meat that only tastes like chicken.