Any box office successes of The Hangover: Part II should be attributed to title recognition, not necessarily because it’s an excellent film. People remember Todd Phillips’ 2009 Golden Globe winner (For Best Comedy/Musical)—it’s beloved for its raucous 30-40 year-old male characters and its depiction of a dream Vegas bachelor party-turned-nightmarish hunt for the groom. Naturally, moviegoers would want to see a sequel, even though The Hangover would have been perfectly fine as a standalone film. And while it feels good to reunite with “the three best friends that anyone could have,” Part II only proves that what happens in Vegas really should just stay in Vegas.
The Hangover: Part II revolves around another marriage within the Wolfpack and their inevitable shenanigans. The dentist Stu (Ed Helms) is getting ready to marry Lauren (Jamie Chung)—yeah, we don’t know where she came from since she wasn’t in the original movie—in her parents’ homeland of Thailand, which calls for invitations to his buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). This time, the Wolfpack adds a new member for one night: Lauren’s smart but shy teenage brother Teddy (Mason Lee). The guys only promise to have one beer after the rehearsal dinner, but then the post-party moments from Vegas are taken up another level. Doug is back at the resort, but Phil, Stu, and Alan find themselves in a seedy Bangkok apartment with no Teddy in sight. Instead, they find a shaved head on Alan, a tattoo on Stu’s face, a cracked-out monkey, a severed finger, and a reunion with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), just as they found him in the first Hangover—naked. Using all that they found in the room, the guys must retrace their steps through the city slums to find out how they got there and more importantly, to find Teddy before the wedding.
The gritty streets of Bangkok serve as a contrast to the glitz of Vegas, thus providing a darker and uncomfortable tone in the setting. But at the same time, it gives some out-there things for the characters to work with. The culture clash, for example, between the guys and Buddhist monks is something that would not have been found anywhere else, and ends in some hilarious results too. They delve into the city’s red light districts, where the encounters with strippers and cocaine are more explicit. The raunch factor is amped up somewhat, and the dialogue is just a tad bit more outrageous.
But despite more female and male nudity, smoking and white powder, and a severed limb instead of just a lost tooth, The Hangover: Part II lazily recycles the blueprint from the first movie. It begins and ends the same way, and the middle is consisted of some new material and new material that echoes events and happenings from the last film. Even when Alan wheels around their mysterious Buddhist monk buddy, it’s much too reminiscent of when he carries that baby around in Las Vegas. Some of the more direct references to that Sin City night, like when Alan mentions Stu’s whirlwind chapel nuptials at the rehearsal dinner table, will provide some of the film’s most genuine laughs and a feeling of nostalgia. But ultimately, the predictable tried-and-true formula becomes more tired than whimsical.
Somehow, the characters also become more unlikable in this installment. Phil is as rude as ever; Stu’s paranoia makes us horribly crazy (Though we can be a little bit forgiving since it’s his wedding after all); Alan loses with being repetitive and overly whiny, mostly in part of his jealousy toward Teddy; and Chow doesn’t deliver as much as he did back then. Lauren and Teddy don’t add much to the tale other than being the reasons for having a wedding and a party, and there’s almost no use for Doug either, other than being part of the original group and proof that a sensible man in that group exists. Having Doug partake in the drunken festivities (And NOT the one missing) would have at least shaken up the formula so it isn’t mostly a rehash of the first.
For how it really came about though, The Hangover: Part II is still a good time. Fans of the 2009 movie will love seeing the cast together again and appreciate all the jokes and moments from here and there. But that 2009 movie is a tough act to follow and repeating many of the same schticks makes it fall flat, and it’s a bit of a disappointment to see it unravel. It just reinforces that the best/worst hangovers are only in Vegas.