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Having boosted the bar for R-rated comedies with that outrageous blast of fresh air that was 2009’s The Hangover — and earning more than $467 million worldwide in the process — it’s understandable that director Todd Phillips didn’t want to mess too much with success.
As a result, even though the The Hangover Part II trades Vegas for Bangkok, venturing farther afield hasn’t translated into a livelier excursion.
That comfortable air of familiarity provided by the returning characters also extends to many of the original’s more inspired bits — but to less potent effect.
Still, even a milder Hangover manages to deliver more laughs than most of the competition, and audiences primed for the further misadventures of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and company should ensure that the picture has a memorable Memorial Day weekend kickoff.
The new script, penned by Phillips along with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong, picks up two years after the debacle that was Doug’s (Justin Bartha) bachelor party.
This time around, it’s dentist Stu who’s about to tie the knot with the lovely Lauren (Jamie Chung) in her parents’ home country of Thailand.
Despite ultracautious’ Stu’s best intentions, history nonetheless repeats itself after a harmless seaside toast to the groom goes apparently terribly wrong — with the boys having to retrace the steps that landed them in a fleabag Bangkok Hotel along with a chain-smoking capuchin monkey.
They have also awakened to a shaved head, a Mike Tyson tattoo and the ring finger (complete with ring) belonging to Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), minus its bearer.
Although the ensuing Bangkok adventure is not without its shocking, laugh-out-loud moments, too much of Part II seems content to trot out variations on the earlier bits, like your joke-cracking uncle who believes that any punch line that gets a chuckle the first time bears repeating — over and over again.
In addition to that hard-to-replicate element of surprise, also in short supply here is the manic energy that made the original such a delightfully unpredictable ride.
The reunited cast looks to have been up for a greater challenge, especially gonzo Galifianakis, who emerged as the breakout star of the first Hangover.
Although he once again makes off with some of the healthier laughter as the certifiably odd Alan — a self-described “stay-at-home son” — this time around a chunk of his thunder has been stolen by Ken Jeong, back as jive-talking Asian gangsta Mr. Chow.
Also doing her share of scene-stealing is Crystal, that streetwise capuchin (PETA take note: All the “smoking” sequences were CGI-created), who previously shared the screen with Cooper in 2006’s Failure to Launch.
Those exotic Thai backdrops also play an evocative role thanks to Lawrence Sher’s vivid cinematography; as does Phillips’ customarily eclectic song selection, running the gamut from Kanye to Billy Joel and allowing for a little encore from a certain retired heavyweight champion.
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