“It happened again”, Bradley Cooper’s Phil tells his fretting girlfriend via telephone. Indeed it has. The very words not only summarize into three words the plot of director Todd Phillips’ Hangover Part II, the anticipated sequel to the 2009 comedic calamity of a bachelor party gone hilariously haywire, but they almost seem to mock the concept of the sequel itself, as the latest in lewd laughter refuses to take any sort of calculated risks with the series, leaving us with a tiresome, though still fairly fun, second round.
Cooper returns with co-stars Ed Helm and Zach Galifianakis, who are all whisked halfway around the world for Stu’s (Helm) wedding in Thailand. Determined not to repeat the events of their last little drunken escapade, the three down a single beer for the occasion. Of course, last call becomes first call, and morning glory in Bangkok sees an ape on amphetamine, Stu with a tattoo, and Alan (Galifianakis) with a cue-ball for a head.
As per its predecessor, The Hangover Part II is all about the men’s attempts to unravel the mystery of their wild night and to find a missing member of their partying party, as every backtracking step leads them farther from the truth and further into danger. Now, the original was outrageous, but that’s what made it fun and relatable. We may not wake up to a tiger in our Vegas hotel suite every Saturday morning, but we’ve all woken up at one point or another having to digest an incomparable amount of intoxicated consequences… sometimes we’re laughing, sometimes we’re not. Part II is well titled, because it does feel like a part, like an episodic continuum of the first instead of an honest sequel. It largely follows the same formula with seldom deviation, and is that bad? No, not at all. It’s safe. But maybe too safe.
Performance-wise, Galifianakis stole, and still steals, the comedic spotlight, though at times he kind of overdoes the idiot. I’ve become prone to calling this the Jack Sparrow syndrome, when an actor, under the pressure of living up to his successful role, acts over rather than under his dramatic quota. He’s still pretty damn funny though, and Helm and Cooper are in no way useless. The trio, bolstered by the bulls*** that keeps testing their every vein of patience, are just as entertaining in Bangkok as they were in Sin City.
Yes, it happened again, and that means you can predict The Hangover Part II’s compliments to a tee. But if you’re expecting the same number of shocks that labeled the Hangover, you won’t find it here, mainly because you know the sort of shocks that await. Make no mistakes, there are just as many outrageous scenarios plaguing Part II, but the subtitle alone tells you: we’re recycling the successful… and it doesn’t make as near an impact this time around. It takes very few risks, to the extent that structurally we’ve seen all this before. However, if it’s Friday night, you’re looking for a few laughs, maybe even a few Wolf-Pack howls, then you can do no wrong by grabbing a couple of beers and giving her a look. Just a few words of caution: watch your drinks closely.