Dir. Todd Phillips
Sequels to big hit comedies can really only run in one direction, it seems. Rather than take a chance with switching things up, adding entirely new elements, and running the risk of potentially disappointing their already built-in audience, they have to sufficiently ape the previous film's success, bringing back the same characters, the same conflicts and many of the same comedic elements that made the initial film such a success. From a financial standpoint, it makes perfect sense for studios: The film likely will at least earn them a big opening weekend, en route to their making back on their initial investment. The only serious downside is the likelihood of the film becoming instantly forgettable, flaming out like a piece of dried cellophane, adding another light sprinkle of dust to the enormous ash heap of cinematic history.
Which, finally, brings us to the second Hangover movie. We are quickly reunited with Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Stu is still repressed, Phil still lude, Alan's still a loose-canon nutjob and Doug (Justin Bartha) is still almost entirely absent from the proceedings. The set-up this time is Stew's wedding, in Thailand, to an improbably stunning Thai woman (Jamie Chung), whose father does not approve of him (in a memorable pre-wedding toast he compares Stu to a kind of soft, white rice). Against his better judgment, Stu joins his friends for a beach campfire, where they plan to enjoy a single beer, along with Stu's young brother-in-law to be, Teddy (Mason Lee), a brilliant scholar at Stanford. Naturally, the boys wake up the next morning in a seedy hotel in Bangkok, and soon discover a small monkey in a Stones jeans jacket, a severed finger they believe to be Teddy's who is otherwise missing, and the passed-out, severely underdressed Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the psychopath gangster they tangled with in Las Vegas. With no memory of what happened the night before and a growing desperation to find Teddy, the boys run rampant over the streets of Bangkok, searching for clues that will help them find him in time to make the wedding.
This pattern of familiarity doesn't just stop with the plot threads. Indeed, almost all of the film already happened. Instead of innovation, the screenplay, written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and director Todd Phillips, simply substitutes the details from the first film: Instead of Vegas, we have Bangkok; instead of a baby, we have a monkey; instead of missing a tooth, Stu has a face tattoo, and so on. The film relies on so many of the same beats and jokes (Alan loves the Jonas Brothers, Stu hooks up with a prostitute, Chow is naked), after a while it feels like a once funny story one of your loudmouth friends has already told you a dozen times before. The cast still has their peculiar chemistry, and giving Ken Jeong more of a central role certainly helps bring the energy level up, but otherwise, there's almost no reason to see this movie: It's not a sequel, it's a bloody remake.