“The Hangover 2”

     Todd Phillips' "The Hangover 2" is an exercise using the most widely acceptable sequel conventions.  If the first was raunchy, make the second even raunchier.  If the first pushed the R-rating envelope, have the second compete for an adults only rating.  "The Hangover 2" succeeds in each of these areas by using the same plot as the first, but changing the setting. Las Vegas has a reputation for being "Sin City", but Thailand to most is even dirtier and this proves to be the right locale for the film's "not again" story.

     I don't knock the logic here.  Sticking with what works is a no brainer.  One Christmas, John McClane is saving the Nakatomi hostages and the next Christmas he's fighting terrorists at Dulles International Airport.  Based on the events in "The Hangover", there is no reason to believe these morons couldn't again find themselves in the same predicament right? People in general are stupid, so the repeat of the story is fine with me.  It's the substance, or lack there of, which the film is comprised of that detracts from it's appeal as a solid summer comedy.  The dialogue and the scenarios these guys find themselves in are so similar to the first film that it is just not as funny.  I only had a few muted chuckles during the course of the entire film.

     Stu (Ed Helms) has found the woman of his dreams and is set to get married in Thailand.  With the events of the first film still fresh on everyone's mind, Stu recruits Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to be in his wedding and just like that, "The Wolf Pack" is back!  Once in Thailand, the crew sets out for what is supposed to be one drink before bed, but things don't quite work out that way.  They wake up the next morning in a run down motel in Bangkok and attempt to piece together the previous nights events.  The main problem they have?  Stu's fiancé's brother was with them and now he's missing.  They have few clues, but it's not long until they realize they spent part of the night with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) who bursts into a scene the way Janice did in "Friends", laugh and all.  As you watch, all of this will seem very familiar.

     After this film, Zach Galifianakis is gonna need to reinvent himself.  With the two Hangover films, "Dinner with Schmucks", and "Due Date", he has basically played the exact same character the same way four times.  It's just not funny anymore.  The guy plays weird well, but his strange stares, his laugh, and his personality are worn and no longer can carry a film or be depended upon for laughs.  Same goes for the overacting of Ed Helms.  His Stu screams like a baby in every situation the group finds themselves in and it gets annoying.  That leaves Bradley Cooper and you know what? He doesn't do a bad job.  His calm in situations of crisis are a fine anecdote for the two morons he hangs out with and his reactions to some of the film's better moments hold the group together.

     I can't blame Todd Phillips for going back to the well and I wont be surprised if he does it again in the future.  At the time of this writing, The Hangover 2 had just earned the biggest opening weekend of any comedy all time.  For some reason, audiences connect with these characters, which I suppose is not a surprise given the quality of our society.  The film excels in it's depiction of some of the raunchiest scenes you'll see in a R-rated movie and there is certainly merit in that.  There were a couple places in the film that sparked a reaction in me to look away and I suppose there is always that "what will they do next" factor.  As with the first film, the end credits give you all of the answers through a found photo montage and these still shots illicit the best audience reactions.  So much so that it kind of made the entire film feel unnecessary.  Clearly a sign this franchise has now run it's course.  GRADE: D