Perhaps the only fresh aspect of The Hangover 2's Indianapolis promo screening was the cans of Nos, an energy drink, handed out to nearly 400 of the film's viewers. Virtually every other aspect of the film, quite literally and rather proudly, was an almost paint-by-numbers retread of the original film with the exception of the entire flick being set in Thailand.
This is not to say, despite the assertion of quite a few misguided critics, that The Hangover 2 is a bad film. It's not. Despite for the most part being a predictable, occasionally word-for-word, retread, The Hangover 2 manages to hold on to enough of the original film's irreverence and subversive nature that even though you know you're laughing at the same joke all over the simple truth is that it's still funny even the second time around.
There's no question that The Hangover was superior in virtually every way, a far more subversive and out-of-control and off-kilter comedy with more interesting and unpredictable characters and a storyline that felt fresh and completely psychotic. This time around, the subversion feels measured and the film's off-kilter nature is such a carbon copy of the original film that almost none of it feels fresh or that particularly out of control. In the first film, even though you had this weird feeling everything would work out alright in this film there's virtually no doubt from point one.
We know where this film is going, but we still have quite a bit of fun getting there.
This time around, Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married to a Thai sweetie named Lauren (Jamie Chung). The wedding's going to take place in Thailand to please her parents, including a father (Nirut Sirichanya) who seems none too pleased at his daughter's choice for a hubby. It goes without saying that Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) will come along, and it should go without saying that somehow Alan (Zach Galifianakis) will find himself along for the trip.
The whole gang checks into the posh Thai resort determined to have a calm, uneventful trip. Yeah, right! A "night before the wedding" bonfire with a beer, ONE beer, becomes inexplicably chaotic and our guys wake up in Bangkok with a mysterious monkey, an unexplained appendage, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and an even bigger mess than they managed to get themselves into the first time around when the bride's younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), goes missing.
The film's generally familiar feeling may be due to both the decision to do a semi-irreverent tribute to the original film and the addition of co-writer Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3 and 4) with original Scot Armstrong (Old School). While the film's largely a retread, it's frequently a darker, dirtier and more amped up retread that includes everything from an elderly monk to a hilariously wonderful hooker and an appearance by Paul Giamatti that makes good use of the gifted actor.
The Hangover 2 mostly centers around Stu this time around, and as Helms proved with this year's delightful indie Cedar Rapids, he's more than able to exude both heart and humor with equal zest. Bradley Cooper plays the alpha male with even more bravado this time around, but it's really Zach Galifianakis who holds the entire film together and keeps us watching completely mesmerized through even the most familiar of scenes.
Actually, along with Galifianakis, Ken Jeong is again an absolute delight as Mr. Chow, an effeminate baddie who captivates in nearly every minute he's onscreen. Speaking of onscreen, actually off-screen, Justin Bartha again gets shafted as the friend who somehow manages to be untainted once again by anything that goes on.
If you're expecting another unique and original comic masterpiece, then you'll no doubt be disappointed with The Hangover 2. For the most part, director Todd Phillips plays it safe and goes for the surefire box-office hit with a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the original film that likely won't be nearly as funny if you haven't seen the original film and still won't be anywhere near as funny as the original film. That said, The Hangover 2 is still considerably funnier than most of the comedies that have hit theaters in 2011 and should enjoy tremendous box-office on its opening Memorial Day weekend.