For those of us old enough to remember the 1980s, before they broke up, the Police released a greatest hits album. But it also had a "new" song on it - "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86." It was an updated version of their classic song, with new music and vocals. It was unclear what the intention behind making it was, other than making more money, because the first song did its job perfectly well. The original is a classic; the remake was a band going through the motions, changing up the tempo and melody slightly so people who heard it wouldn't feel completely ripped off.
THE HANGOVER PART II is that song.
There are funny moments, to be sure. There's enough material that can be squeezed out of the premise that audiences will be surprised at and enjoy. But beat for beat, it is the same movie, except with more outrageous gags than the original. If you loved the first movie, you'll find something to enjoy here. If you didn't, or thought the first film was forced, you'll feel decidedly ripped off. Of course, if you didn't enjoy it the first time around, there's no sense in going back to the film, because nothing has changed, except for locale and some of the characters.
This time it's Stu (Ed Helms) getting married. His fiancee Lauren (Jamie Chung) is from Thailand, and she wants to get married there, mostly to please her disapproving parents, so Stu happily goes along. He invites Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) but is reluctant to invite Alan (Zack Galifianakis) considering what happened at the last wedding Alan was invited to. But the guys manage to convince Stu to bring him along. Also coming is Lauren's brother, 16-year-old Teddy (Mason Lee) who may be a child prodigy, playing cello and attending Stanford. The five of them head out to the beach for a celebratory beer... and Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up on a filthy Bangkok hotel room floor, with no memory of last night's events... again. Teddy is missing, and the wedding can't go forward without the brother of the bride, so the trio scour the city trying to find him and to piece together what happened.
THE HANGOVER PART II isn't exactly a sequel, or exactly a remake, but some strange combination of the two. It definitely has funny moments, but plotwise there's nothing you haven't seen before in the original film, just transplanted into a more exotic location. Granted, most comedy sequels are retreads of the original film, but I can't recall any that were so blatant about it like this. Instead of a tiger in the bathroom, we get a monkey. Instead of a baby, we get the return of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Instead of Stu's missing tooth, he has a face tattoo. I admit I'm curious to see what it would be like to play both films side by side and see if they sync up at all, because it certainly feels like they do.
Ed Helms is the best thing in THE HANGOVER PART II. When unleashed, repressed Stu becomes something else entirely. "I have a demon in me," he proclaims to his fiancee, and when his activities over the course of the night are revealed, they provide the film's biggest laughs, especially in one scene at a Bangkok strip club - the best, funniest scene in the film - which had the largest audience response in my screening. Zack Galifianakis is funny as expected, though his weird man-child character seems to be going through the motions at times. Everyone else, including Bradley Cooper, is doing the same thing they did in the last film. Ken Jeong gets a bit more screen time in this than the last film, but not much else.
THE HANGOVER PART II isn't terrible, isn't great. It's the original film, dressed up in different clothes to be sure but still the same movie. If you absolutely loved the original film and just want to see different jokes couched in the same film, this film is your ticket. But if you're looking for a different plot, you won't get it in this movie. There's a strange timidity to the film even through the more outrageous jokes. They can push the envelope of taste as much as they want, but when it comes to pushing the plot into new directions, Todd Phillips and company seem afraid to change up anything.