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So I wasn't really that impressed with the sleeper hit comedy of 2009 in Todd Phillips' The Hangover, and my verdict for Part II is, well, quite the same because... drumroll, it IS the same, with the return of familiar characters getting embroiled in the same good ol' shenanigans to draw out laughter at the absurdity of it all, crafted using the same formula which already drew in an incredible opening weekend at the box office. As the saying goes, if it ain't broken, don't fix it.
And scribes Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong did just that, sticking to what worked in the first film, and transplanting the formula over to a new country, that of Thailand and more specifically, Bangkok taking over Las Vegas as this installment's sin city. Which isn't a surprise given Bangkok's rather colourful and seedier side of night life that the filmmakers had a field day to go over, ranging from open drug dealers to go go bar owners, right down to the sex workers whom we all know are well, not quite who they seem. One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble indeed.
The wolf pack of the first film returns, with the dentist Stu (Ed Helms) having moved on and now in a new relationship with Lauren (Jamie Chung) and are getting married in a Thai resort. Knowing just how well the previous bachelor party went, Stu is adamant for only a safe weekend brunch, but that wouldn't be a lot of fun, would it? To get there, we need to spend close to 20 minutes with the usual suspects of Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) finally convincing Stu to involve them all at his wedding overseas, and what would be a safe campfire, single drink only event involving Stu's future young brother in law Teddy (Mason Lee, son of filmmaker Ang Lee, ok?) turning out to be nothing but a bad deja vu.
The trailer had set it all up already, with the all too familiar waking up routine, replacing Stu's broken tooth with a bad ass tattoo ala Mike Tyson's, Alan getting bald, Phil well, going almost shirtless to show off his torso, and the new kid on the block Teddy being all but absent, which sends the troupe into a frenzy since Alan is the favourite son of Stu's soon to be father-in-law. Instead of a tiger, we get Crystal the (in)famous monkey which had made its name in another blockbuster franchise joining in to well, provide fellatio jokes, and would probably irk animal activists with its constant smoking of cigarettes, whether or not faked (director Todd Phillips was quite adamant that the cigarettes were not lit, and the smoke was digitally added).
So formula means having the group figuring out where their last few hours had gone, having no inkling of their mad party antics which we do get to see glimpses of when they traverse across the city trying to retrace their steps and locate clues as to where Teddy might be. So we get a slew of cliches and stereotypes from characters to situational set ups, each trying really hard to make the audience laugh, with the clock ticking toward an impending wedding to happen that they must return to, intact. It may seem that all the characters here were going through the motions of groundhog day, so much so that this outing seemed a little short on surprises, with everyone being relatively muted when compared to the crazier first installment.
For instance, Zach Galifiankis being the revelation of the first Hangover, has his Alan character being a little bit stale, the man-child that you've grown to hate. Ken Jeong as Mr Chow as usual was the livewire, but alas he was absent for the whole midsection before coming back into the scene. He's the other actor that made The Hangover work with his rapid fire, thickly accented English, vulgar behaviour and lines, and his second outing could have been better if not for a comparatively more self-aware performance that didn't really go for broke.
Will there be a Hangover Part III? From the looks of the box office opening numbers, I don't see how the studio can pass up the opportunity. My only wish is for the formula not to be repeated for another time, because then it would be really cheap and too coincidental for the same old shenanigans to be happening to the same old folks within too close a period of time. My suggestion would be to chug a few beers beforehand with a few like minded pals who go to the movies only for crass comedies, and the alcohol and company would help to boost the enjoyment factor of The Hangover Part II.
Otherwise, you'll have to sit through everything before the end credits roll with what would arguably be the best bits of the film - that all revealing photo montage that spelt out exactly what the wolf pack had been up to, making you envious at the hard partying ways they got themselves into and itching or even inspired to be part of something similar rather than having to sit through the characters' agonizing return to reality.