A Very Painful ‘Hangover’

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

At one point in “The Hangover: Part II,” one of the characters wails, “I can’t believe this is happening again!” With those words, he has pretty much nailed our reaction to what we’re watching on the screen. Indeed, the acronym “S.S.D.D.” (“Same Shit, Different Day”) is perhaps the best way to describe the film as a whole. The sequel to the 2009 hit comedy is essentially the same thing as its predecessor; in a way, it isn’t as much of a sequel than it is a remake of its predecessor.

Those who laughed their asses off at “The Hangover” will probably think that this isn’t really a bad thing at all – after all, that film is a surprisingly good flick. But do we expect such a gargantuan dip in quality? The things that made the first film fun are either frighteningly absent or not as developed here. What makes “The Hangover: Part II” different from its predecessor is that it’s darker, raunchier and – frankly speaking – stupider.

A few years have passed since the Wolfpack’s escapades in Las Vegas. There’s a wedding again, and the groom is none other than Stu (Ed Helms), who is to marry his fiancée Lauren (Jamie Chung) in Thailand. Traveling with him are Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and – to Stu’s extreme reluctance – Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Also accompanying the group is Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren’s 16-year-old Stanford-attending prodigy of a brother, whom Alan immediately dislikes.

After a relatively disastrous wedding reception, the guys meet on the nearby beach at night to roast marshmallows and drink one beer each. The next morning, Phil, Stu and Alan awaken in a dingy, unknown hotel room with no knowledge of what has happened. To their distress, someone is missing again, but it isn’t Doug, who’s back at the resort – it’s Teddy. Soon, the Wolfpack ventures into the city of Bangkok to piece together the events from last night in order to find Teddy.

If we compare the plot of “The Hangover: Part II” with that of the first film, we’ll find that they are so similar that the sequel appears to be a direct copy of its predecessor, albeit with a change in characters and location. Nearly every object and scene in this film somehow reflects its better equivalent in the first – a drug-dealing monkey echoes the baby and tiger, a tattoo artist (Nick Cassevetes) reiterates the chapel owner, etc. – and instead of trying to be wholly original, they communicate to us, “Hey guys, do you totally remember that one scene/thing in the first movie? Aw yeah.”

This demonstrates a sense of laziness and possible arrogance, which becomes apparent when you’re watching the film, for you can’t help but feel that the studio is still trying to cash in on “The Hangover” – talk about a blatantly obvious, if not pathetic, attempt to pickpocket us.

What makes it even more insulting is that writer and director Todd Phillips, in addition to the cast, seems to be aware of this but still goes ahead with it, perhaps buoyed by the thought (or hope) that since the audience enjoyed the first film, they won’t mind this one, as long as it’s as memorable as the first.

Oh, it’s memorable, all right – but for the wrong reasons. The film’s sense of humor, which is already mostly falling flat because the characters’ actions and situations mirror those in the first film and in no way improve them, resorts to half-heartedly attempting to elicit laughter from more frontal nudity (mainly penises), more Chow (Ken Jeong) and the introduction of transsexuals – as another character purrs, “You’re in Bangkok, there’s a reason they don’t call it Bangcunt!”

Even more disappointing are the characters, who evidently didn’t emerge as better men after their Las Vegas mishaps. Phil is still the party-loving jerk. The other two main members of the Wolfpack are given an extra dimension that doesn’t really work. We find that Stu has a darker side – or “a demon,” as he calls it – and the way it is utilized in the story isn’t really convincing and is rather forced. Alan, while still the awkward child in a man’s body, is much more aggressive than passive this time around – which doesn’t result in many of his trademark good one-liners, by the way – and this crueler aspect of his personality doesn’t quite fit in well.

The returning members of the cast are once again called to basically do the same things they did in the first “Hangover.” Aside from the character personality changes mentioned above, Cooper, Helms, Galifianakis – who steals the show again, which isn’t really saying much – and Bartha don’t offer anything new. Jeong provides yet another reason why he should stick with his doctoral practice instead of showcasing his acting skills. The newcomers like Chung unfortunately don’t bring much to the table.

The relocation from Las Vegas to Thailand provides the film with a more dynamic sense of color, and the new setting is exquisitely shot. Even though the story sags for the most part, there is always a sense of vibrancy here due to the cinematography, production design and sound – exemplified through an entertaining car chase in the later stages of the film.

In the grand scheme of things, “The Hangover: Part II” is definitely one of the biggest disappointments of the year. While there are some genuine bits of humor and spirit, they don’t prevent the film from being nothing more than a jaded copy of the original.

Rating: 2/5