THE HANGOVER PART II

Anyone who swears by The Hangover is likely to be disappointed by its sequel, which as it turns out is a carbon copy of the earlier film. With The Hangover Part II, director Todd Phillips has made the exact same movie all over again. Except that he’s set it in Thailand, and the jokes aren’t that funny anymore.

So once again, a bachelor party spins out of control and the guys wake up the next morning with no memory of the previous night’s misadventures, only to realize that someone is missing. From there, it’s a mad rush trying to retrace their steps and to put the pieces together.

Two years ago, The Hangover crept into our cinemas quietly. With a cast of mostly unknowns and a director who was hardly A-list, the film arrived with no expectations whatsoever. Yet, that ribald comedy went down as 2009’s biggest surprise hit thanks to the novelty of its premise and the unpredictability of its characters and their behavior. Remember how shocked you were when one of them pretends to jerk off a baby? Or when they discover a tiger in the bathroom? Or when Mike Tyson shows up?

The new film doesn’t work because it’s missing that element of surprise. That joy of stumbling into an outrageous, unexpected joke has all but vanished in The Hangover Part II, whose gags feel so familiar that you wonder why you’re paying to watch the same film again. Our heroes Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up not in a Caesar’s Palace suite on this occasion, but a fleabag hotel in Bangkok. Instead of finding a baby or a tiger in their hotel room, they find a chain-smoking monkey. And Ed, who’s the groom-to-be this time round, doesn’t wake up with a tooth missing, but with a tattoo on his face.

Gross gags are plenty in this sequel, as you would expect from a comedy set in the seedy streets of Bangkok. In The Hangover Stu woke up to discover he’d married a stripper. In this sequel, let’s just say he’s done something far more shocking. Mr Chow (Ken Jeong), that effeminate criminal from the earlier film returns too, and shows us more of himself than we’d like to see. They even repeat the end credits photo montage, a clever way to fill in the blanks from the blackout night; but while it’s more adult this time, it doesn’t have the same comic impact as it did in The Hangover.

The biggest disappointment in this film is Zach Galifianakis, who reprises his role as bearded man-child Alan. After practically stealing the earlier film with his hilarious one-liners and his deadpan delivery, Galifianakis plays Alan as a not-particularly-lovable weirdo this time. The only scenes in which we see that old spark are the ones in which Alan takes an instant dislike to Stu’s brother-in-law who he fears is threatening to infiltrate the Wolfpack.

The Hangover Part II is not without a few laughs, but the operative word here is ‘few’. The best jokes in this film, incidentally all appear in the trailer. I’m going with two out of five for The Hangover Part II. Prepare to seriously underwhelmed.

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