For one who overimbibes, the recommended morning-after remedy is a hair of the dog that bit him, just a wee nip.
Rather than a just a hair, The Hangover Part II chugs the whole pooch. All the better, I suppose, to regurgitate every plot turn of the original. Only the setting and the groom have been changed to differentiate this lifeless sequel from the lively 2009 hit. The setting: Thailand. The groom: Stu (Ed Helms).
The arc is identical: Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) rise from a blackout drunk — not in a Las Vegas suite but a Bangkok flophouse, where they begin to piece together what happened.
They wake to find that an unusual animal has joined their menagerie. Instead of a growling tiger in the loo, this time there's a mocking capuchin monkey with a nasty cigarette habit and a stash of contraband drugs.
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Oh, and again Stu's face is somewhat altered: Instead of a missing tooth, he has a tattoo. What's different is that this is a Three Stooges movie with a passport.
The gang's in Thailand because it's the native country of the bride, Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose dismissive dad (Nirut Sirichanya) finds Stu too underachieving for his family. Consider that Lauren's kid brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), 16, is a cello prodigy in the pre-med program at Stanford.
Teddy joins Stu's bachelor party on the beachfront of a resort hotel, but on the morning after, the only trace of the teen is a severed finger encircled by his school ring. Can mild-mannered romantic Stu, tough-talking cynic Phil, and borderline-personality man-child Alan find the rest of Teddy and make it to the wedding on time?
From Road Trip to The Hangover to Due Date, director Todd Phillips has been a cartographer of male passages (and rites of passage). For him, Stu, Phil and Alan represent the three flavors of guy: Stu is vanilla and sweet with a streak of recklessness; Phil is bitter chocolate with a kick; Alan is a double dip of tutti-frutti.
These characters were amusing the first time around, but Phillips and his screenwriters don't bring much new to the party. The original succeeded precisely because the characters were unfamiliar and unexpected. In the sequel, familiarity is comforting, but it's also the enemy of surprise.
Phillips' Bangkok-and-bull story gives off the stale odor of cultural stereotyping: Almost everybody in Thailand is a Buddhist monk or a sex worker.
Did I laugh? A few times. Did I cringe? For 101 minutes.