A wedding party waits impatiently. Suddenly a cell phone rings. It’s the missing party members: douchey Phil (Bradley Cooper), nebbishy Stu (Ed Helms) and wild card Alan (Zach Galifinakis). They’re at their wits end, and the wedding probably won’t happen. Cut to a doom-laden song over ominous credits. Isn’t this how The Hangover began? In fact, isn’t this exactly how The Hangover began? Yes, only now they’re in Bangkok—the overriding creative principle behind the laziest, most redundant sequel since Home Alone 2.
The Hangover Part II writers Scot Armstrong, Craig Mazin and Todd Phillips (who directed, as he did the first) did not write Part I, but they might as well have. Forced at gunpoint to follow-up a hit that worked fine as a stand-alone narrative, they’ve thrown up their arms and copied it. A couple elements are swapped around for good measure: now, it’s Stu who’s getting married, the baby’s now a monkey, Heather Graham’s now a ladyboy, it’s Stu’s brother-in-law who’s now AWOL, and so forth. (The other friend—the one who looks like Paul Ryan—is around but out of harm so who cares.)
Following a copycat first half hour—only with lots of winking “we certainly won’t let that happen again” chatter—the story deviates into its own adapted-for-Thailand tale, only to join back up at the end to end things exactly the same way. Even the middle section isn’t too different, as too different would risk discomforting the audience, who presumably paid to see essentially the same film they already own on DVD. Mel Gibson was supposed to be the super secret guest, but the cast refused to share the same oxygen as a racist anti-semite, so they bring back another super-secret guest, who’s been convicted of rape, to perform a song from the musical Chess.
Less plodding than its predecessor, which was only theoretically funny to begin with, Part II still rehashes without going next level, despite the relocation to a scuzzier locale. Meanwhile, Galifinakis suffers from Captain Jack Sparrow Syndrome, a disease in which a delightful performance that owed everything to unpredictability and its saboteur nature is joylessly duplicated.