(by Dustin Putman
When "The Hangover" was released in the summer of 2009, it exceeded all expectations—at least financially—to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. Some people loved it, seeing it as a raucous grab bag of laughs and good times, but there was a mean streak about it that, for this critic, destroyed any potential it might have otherwise had. The male characters were cruel, sexist, homophobic, obnoxious, criminal dipshits, while the females were painted as either harpy shrews or prostitutes. The actors, without anything witty to say or do, were forced to preen and mug for the camera for 100 minutes. If the time spent with them was enough to pretty much grow to despise the human race, the film was admittedly well-paced and could have been even more painful than it was. Cue "The Hangover Part II," which manages the impressive feat of both lazily rehashing the original beat for beat while making its predecessor seem not so bad in hindsight. Director Todd Phillips (2010's "Due Date") is back on board, as is the vast majority of his cast. Taking over for screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are Craig Mazin (2008's "Superhero Movie") and Scot Armstrong (2008's "Semi-Pro")—with some assist from Phillips—who must have taken the original script, used white-out to replace key words, and added "again" to the end of several lines of dialogue. As in, "I can't believe this is happening again." Neither can I. Article continues below
In the previous picture, loathsome middle school teacher Phil (Bradley Cooper) and hen-pecked dentist Stu (Ed Helms) took best friend Doug (Justin Bartha) to Las Vegas for his balls-to-the-wall bachelor party. With the bride-to-be's offbeat brother Alan (Zach Galifianakis) tagging along, the guys toasted to the future on the roof of Caesar's Palace and woke up the next morning with no idea what happened. There was a tiger in the bathroom, a hospital band around Phil's wrist, a tooth missing from Stu's mouth, a baby in the closet, and a groom that was nowhere to be found. As they investigated Doug's whereabouts, they slowly began to piece together just what went down the night before. In "The Hangover Part II," the one getting married is Stu, the guys have been transplanted to Thailand for his wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung), the fateful toast occurs around a beachside bonfire, and the missing party is Lauren's 16-year-old brother Teddy (Mason Lee). Instead of a tiger, there's a monkey who wears a Rolling Stones jean jacket and occasionally smokes cigarettes. Stu's teeth are all intact, but he has a face tattoo exactly like Mike Tyson's. Alan's head is shaved. Oh, and they are in possession of Teddy's severed finger. Are we bowled over yet?
There is an ultra-cynical cash-grab mentality to "The Hangover Part II" that could turn stomachs if the entire enterprise weren't so wearying. Though the running time is virtually identical, what seemed to move at a clip rate on the first go-around now is overwhelmed by listless lethargy. If possible, the actions of the characters are even more despicable. Sure, they got into the position they're in because they were drugged, but the details they discover in the debaucherous night's aftermath are close to heinous, from mob-style looting to copious drug-taking to hacked-off limbs to Stu cheerfully acting as bottom to a transsexual stripper named Kimmy (Yasmin Lee). Fresh-faced Heather Graham, she's not. Speaking of Graham, who was the one semi-likable person in the earlier movie, she is nowhere to be found but in pictures hanging on a wall. The suggestion that she and Stu might have a future together has been totally forgotten about, traded in for Stu's new fianceé, Lauren, who is sweet enough but free of a personality or depth. Despite the guys committing unforgivable acts, there are no consequences for any of them, Phil's wife used as little more than an extra who smilingly stands beside him in the early and late scenes at the wedding without a thought in her mind and Lauren not so much as questioning where they've been for two days or why he has a tattoo on his face. She never finds out about her hubby's affair with a tranny, but probably wouldn't care about that, either. After all, her little brother's finger has been chopped off under his care and she doesn't bat an eyelash.
The actors do not seem to be having a great time here, perhaps because they had to shoot a piece of crap in oppressively hot weather amidst the dankest squalor of Bangkok. Bradley Cooper (2011's "Limitless") looks perpetually annoyed. Ed Helms (2011's "Cedar Rapids") looks deflated and bored, brightening up only long enough to sing a skewed version of Billy Joel's "Allentown" in yet another scene that directly copies off the last pic's happenings. Justin Bartha (2007's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets") is wasted, but was probably relieved that all his scenes in Thailand take place at a beach resort. Ken Jeong (2010's "Vampires Suck") shows back up as the flamboyant Mr. Chow, now friendly with the guys and one snort of blow away from possibly dying for good. With material that actually had a semblance of cleverness, Jeong might have had the ability to steal scenes. As for Zach Galifianakis (2010's "It's Kind of a Funny Story"), he massively exaggerates Alan, perhaps because he knew what was being made wasn't up to snuff and figured he'd go as over-the-top as possible. Alan was socially awkward before, to be sure, but now he is basically mentally challenged. Once again, it is his doing that causes the lot of them to be drugged, but no one seems to be bothered by it. Que sera sera, one supposes.
"The Hangover Part II" has a title quite similar to 2007's "Hostel Part II" and is very nearly just as much a horror show. With a few minor tweaks, in fact, the same story could have turned into just that, and would have been better for it. As the film goes on its dull, dim-brained, slapdash way toward the very same conclusion as "The Hangover," plus, that is, the ear-splitting sound of Mike Tyson raping the classic song "One Night in Bangkok," there isn't a solitary laugh in sight. Not one. A person couldn't write worse jokes—if that's what they are—if he or she tried, and its sheer ineptitude just goes to cement what a valuable gem the recent "Bridesmaids" was for its genuine humor, intelligence, loopy stamina, and warm heart. That picture told an actual story and was so funny it hurt. "The Hangover Part II" has no story to tell but the same one already told, and it hurts a whole heck of a lot. Thank goodness for a quick moment where the wedding party lifts lanterns into the lovely night sky to the opening strings of A Flock of Seagull's "I Ran." It's the only beauty anyone will find in a desperate monstrosity destined to make loads of money while pleasing almost no one.