The Hangover Part II (15/R, 101 mins)
Director: Todd Phillips
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
But its stunning worldwide haul of over $450m surprised everyone and made a sequel inevitable, one which now has to match or better its predecessor’s takings and, more or less importantly, depending if you’re the audience or the money men, be just as funny.
With the level of anticipation and inbuilt audience awareness, the former is probably a given. Sadly, if the film is to be judged solely on the number of chuckles it provides, The Hangover Part II falls some way short of its forebear.
With the template of the first film followed rigorously, it seemed a fairly safe bet on paper. This time it’s Stu (Ed Helms) who’s getting married in Thailand and we begin with the same morning after phone call made by Phil (Bradley Cooper), telling the wedding party that things have gone very badly wrong.
Heading back to one week earlier in the States, the final wedding plans are being put in place. Stu is adamant that he’s not going to have a bachelor party, given what happened in Vegas first time round. He also doesn’t want Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to come, given that he was largely responsible for what happened when he spiked their drinks.
In one of the first signs that all is not quite right with this follow up, Alan has gone from eccentric to actively obnoxious, taking an instant dislike to Stu’s brother-in-law to be, Teddy, as they travel to Thailand. As for the bachelor party, Stu agrees to one beer, from a sealed bottle that couldn’t have been tampered with. What’s the worst that could happen?
But clearly, when they wake up in a filthy hotel room in Bangkok the next morning, the worst has happened. Alan’s head has been shaved, Stu has a massive tattoo on his face and the only sign they have of Teddy is his finger in an ice bucket.
It’s a lot of manoeuvring to get the same three guys into the same situation, and while the sense of familiarity is comforting, it also smacks of a lack of imagination on the part of the filmmakers. As before, Phil, Alan and Stu can’t remember anything about the night before, so they head out on a tour of the city, trying to piece together the clues of a night that involved an old monk, police riots and a drug dealing monkey.
Conspicuously missing are the comic set pieces that so enlivened the first outing, replaced by action and frenetic car chases through the streets of Bangkok. Instead of being funny, it’s actually rather dark and dangerous, ending up more like an international crime thriller than a comedy by the time we get to Paul Giamatti’s gangster, who might have some information regarding Teddy’s whereabouts.
The few proper laughs that are to be found come from crudity, a sure sign that the writers aren’t especially interested in coming up with strong character based situations to provide the comedy. There’s copious ladyboy action and a possibly unhealthy obsession with having the monkey touch human genitals, although Galifianakis snags what might be the movie's best line with "When a monkey nibbles on a penis, it's funny in any language."
He does turn in another impressively oblivious performance and many of Helms’ increasingly distraught reactions are amusing, though Cooper’s role as the level-headed one doesn’t offer him a single opportunity to do something funny.
But for all that it’s well constructed, nicely played and never dull, The Hangover Part II has to be measured on laughs and they truly are few and far between. In fact the end-credit photos showing what really happened over the course of the wild night might actually be the funniest thing the movie has to offer, and that isn’t really good enough.