In 2009 director Todd Philips and his cast struck upon a successful formula with “The Hangover,” so successful in fact it became the most profitable R-rated comedy in film history. The sequel was inevitable and so was the feeling of deja vu.
“The Hangover Part 2” is beat for beat the exact same film as its predecessor. The location has shifted from Las Vegas to Bangkok and the jokes are new, but this is otherwise a carbon copy of the original right down to Ed Helm's character singing a goofy song (still funny) and Ken Jeong jumping out of a confined area (too predictable). It is entertaining, but it is no longer fresh.
Both films center on a trio of friends (Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) who gather for a wedding and, after supposedly one drink, wake up with a memory-erasing hangover and missing one of their compatriots. The groom in question this time is Helms and the missing man is his soon-to-be brother-in-law (Mason Lee).
Philips follows the time-honored tradition that if a sequel is bigger and louder it'll be better. Why do filmmakers insist that this is true? It rarely is. In this case, it works to a degree as Philip and his co-writers come up with some outrageous scenarios that attempt to outdo the original.
There's a running gag with a stolen monk that gets some laughs, Paul Giamatti is good, but underused as a foul-mouthed crime kingpin and the expanded return of Jeong is welcomed. On the demerit side, there's a completely superfluous car chase.
This will sound strange, but the best thing about “Part 2” is a monkey. The first had the trio waking up to discover a tiger in their hotel. Naturally, this film needed an animal as well. The monkey is an upgrade. In his Rolling Stones vest, this monkey has got personality and unexpected talents. I'd watch a whole movie about the exploits of this monkey. Perhaps the monk and monkey should be the stars of the third film. “Monk and Monkey” coming to a theater near you.
The first film turned the scene-stealing Galifianakis into a star. His Alan was endearingly socially awkward, but this time social ineptitude is taken too far. You begin to wonder if the character may have Asperger's syndrome. Too much of his behavior is awkward and uncomfortable without truly being funny. Galifianakis does still get some laughs, but it may be time to retire this persona, which also appeared in Philips' “Due Date” last year.
As with the first film, part of the appeal is the mystery aspect of the story. It is a good formula and you almost can't blame Philips for cloning it so completely. Both films do have clever twists as to where the missing person was the whole time.
So, for a second time around this formula works, but if a third film is made, oh who am I kidding, when the third film is made, Philips better come up with a variation on the theme, because this same situation a third time will be one time too many.