"The Hangover Part II" is one of those execrable sequels that is not merely awful in its own right, but it also diminishes its predecessor. The exuberant trashiness of 2009's "The Hangover," a farce in which three unlikely friends try to reconstruct a lost night in Las Vegas, is here regurgitated as formula, offering just a handful of real laughs.
Once again the occasion is a wedding. Stu (Ed Helms), the dentist whose milquetoast exterior masks a raging subconscious, is set to get married at a sumptuous beach resort in Thailand. Stu is eager not to blow it, in part because of the circumstances of his first wedding — a short-lived union with a Las Vegas stripper that was one of the most entertaining sideshows of the first "Hangover" film.
While Stu doesn't want anything resembling a bachelor party, his friends have other plans. Ruggedly handsome Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the morose, petulant Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are back in harness, and joined by the bride's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee, son of director Ang Lee). Somehow, an innocent bottle of beer in front of a bonfire on the beach turns into a supercharged reprise of their original epic night.
The three principals wake up in a Bangkok hotel room with no idea of how they got there. Stu has a distinctive facial tattoo and Alan's head is shaved. Kenny is missing, but Mr. Chow (the excellent Ken Jeong, reprising his role from the original) is there. The search for Kenny, with its meandering twists and turns, takes up the remainder of the film.
The movie is brought low by an excess of showmanship, stemming from a perceived need to escalate the outrageousness of the original. In so doing, director Todd Phillips recycles the same basic elements. The first film had Mike Tyson's tiger as an animal mascot; "Part II" uses a tiny monkey in a denim vest that smokes cigarettes and is trained to perform hand-to-hand exchanges for a local drug dealer. "Hangover" had a sexy stripper; "Part II" raises the stakes with a transsexual prostitute — shown briefly in the nude. "Hangover" featured a character that loses a tooth; in "Part II" it's a whole finger.
Even so, the movie fails to push the envelope on outrageousness. Its sense of humor is more vicious than clever, resorting to idiotic racial slights in an effort to be provocative. The action sequences are well-orchestrated, but brief and pointless. Even the reliably funny Mr. Galifianakis seems bored with the proceedings, delivering a robotic effort compared to his breakout performance in the original. Only Mr. Jeong is fun to watch as the hyperkinetic Mr. Chow.
"The Hangover Part II" can be summed up in a moment early on in the story, when Phil is urging his friends to, yet again, empty their pockets for clues to where they had been the night before. "You know the drill," he says. Correct. We do.
TITLE: "The Hangover Part II"
CREDITS: Written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips. Directed by Todd Phillips
RATING: R for nudity, language, violence, drug use and strong sexual content
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS