The Hangover Part II

“It’s happened again” groans a sweat-drenched, filthy Bradley Cooper from the roof of a Bangkok hotel minutes into the inevitable follow-up to 2009s smash hit comedy. The Hangover Part II is more of the same - exactly the same - with an added dose of cultural stereotyping and even cruder humour.

Written by returning director Todd Phillips with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, the story picks up two years after the debacle that was Doug’s (Justin Bartha) Las Vegas wedding. This time around, it’s dentist Stu (Ed Helms) who is about to tie the knot with the lovely Lauren (Jamie Chung), in her parents’ home country of Thailand. Mindful of their little escapade in Vegas, Stu manfully attempts to turn a pancake lunch with Doug and best friend Phil (Bradley Cooper) into an official stag do. He is merely postponing the inevitable. Once they’ve arrive in Thailand, having collected half-baked hanger-on Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Lauren’s 16 year old brother Teddy (Mason Lee), the “wolf-pack” bring a six-pack of beach for a harmless pre-wedding toast.

Cut to Cooper’s bleary-eyed face as he wakes up face down on the unutterable floor of a fleapit Bangkok hotel, scattered with empty bottles, the bodies of his lifeless friends and a chain-smoking capuchin monkey. Quickly they discover they are missing someone. Teenage Teddy, an academic genius, musical prodigy and light of his father’s life, is nowhere to be found. With the help, or hindrance, of squealing Korean gangster Mr Chow (Ken Jeong), the boys must retrace their steps through the fleshpots of the steaming city to find the youngster and make it back to the beachside resort in time for Stu’s big day.

While this sequel will likely match the $500m worldwide box office of the original, Part Two proves that, in movies, lighting rarely strikes twice. Although the ensuing adventure is not without a handful of funny moments, far too much of the film seems happy enough to re-enact variations on its predecessor. The element of surprise, crucial to the success of the first film, is impossible to replicate, with the knock-on effect being a dearth of invention and comic energy. Punchlines are rarely funny the second time around and Phillips, on some level, seems to be aware of this, filling his running time with a couple of extended musical numbers and packing the soundtrack with an eclectic selection of jukebox hits, all played over interminable montages.

While Helms and Cooper provide the majority of the plotting, the funny bits are delegated to the Galifianakis as the unpredictable “stay-at-home-son” and Jeong, whose jive-talking, danger-loving criminal is given an expanded role. There is almost no place for women in this world of men behaving badly, with Chung and the returning Sasha Barrese reduced to pleasantries while Gillian Vigman as Phil’s wife Stephanie carries a fixed smile through which she doesn’t deliver a single word of dialogue. The mean streets of Bangkok provide a colourful, if predictably prurient, backdrop but even those flashes of gritty vibrancy are lost in the film’s deadening adherence to formula.

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