The result is one of the laziest sequels made in quite a while.
A lot of what made the original “Hangover” work is still visible in “The Hangover Part II” mainly because returning director Todd Phillips and his screenwriters have taken the expedient of repeating the first film in so many details and with so few variations, it’s hard to find a reason to bother watching the new one. You’d be just as well off watching the first one over again.
The constant demand for a sequel is ‘the same but different.’ It could be the details of the world created, or dangling plot threads or just really interesting characters, and then taken and developed further. But Phillips isn’t having any truck with that, instead putting the same characters through the exact same ringer as before.
There are some differences but they’re all so superficial they make no real difference. The action has been moved from Vegas to Bangkok. The wedding is Stu’s, not best friend Doug (who is excluded from the entire adventure despite being conscious and available this time around), and the person missing is the little brother (Mason Lee) of Stu’s fiancée. And the tiger and baby have been combined in the form of a drug-selling monkey.
But the actual actions all of these ‘changes’ provoke are entirely the same as before, and there is nothing less funny than a joke you already know the punchline to.
To be fair, a lot of that is true only in relation to the first film and judging it for what it’s not instead of for what it is. So what is “The Hangover Part II” actually? Sporadically funny but also missing the extra ‘something’ needed to go from mediocre to good.
If you’ve seen the first what’s missing is surprise and no matter how fair you try to be, that will be hard to get past. A lot of the original’s biggest laughs were tied in with the plot as much as their individual set ups and losing that extra leg knocks a lot of the foundation off balance. Phillips and company have thought long and hard about how far over the top to take some of their gags and they’ve gone a pretty fair way. Surprise combined with horror is the hallmark of Phillips’ comic style and he’s trying as hard as he can to top himself with “The Hangover Part II,” but that focus only goes as far as the actual gags themselves. It feels less like “The Hangover Part II” than it does like “The Hangover” 2.0, as if Phillips were trying to go back and make the first film funnier instead of making a new one.
On the other hand, if you’ve never seen the original “The Hangover Part II” does work much better as the kind of madcap romp the filmmakers seem to have in mind as the ‘Wolfpack’ hook up with the scene stealing Chow (Ken Jeong) again to try and find what part of Bangkok’s underbelly they left Teddy in. But the connections between and development of the characters are completely absent; outside of Stu, Phil and Alan are along basically just because they were part of the group the first time around and are expected to be back. It’s a problem especially visible with Cooper, who doesn’t have Galifianakis’ mugging ability and whose character did all the developing he was going to do already.
“The Hangover Part II” is decently funny, but it’s also a colossal waste of time. The filmmakers have put so little effort into creating something new even the jokes suffer because we already know how it’s all going to come out.