The Hangover Part II features the line “It happened again”. This really ought to tell you everything you need to know. The film is written like above average fan fiction: A complete and amateurish retread of the previous film, never bothering to expand upon what’s already been established.

If you know the plot of the first Hangover, then you essentially know the plot of the second. Stu (Ed Helms), still mentally recovering from the events of the first film, is getting married in Thailand. After being disrespected by his future father-in-law, Stu is goaded into joining Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifinakis) Teddy (Mason Lee), his bride’s genius younger brother, in a small bachelor party. Their conservative celebration, as one might expect, goes horrifically awry. The intrepid group awakens the next morning to find themselves in a Thai flophouse with a severed finger and no memory of the night before. Worse yet, the brilliant little brother of the bride to be is nowhere to be found. Comedy ensues.

When making a movie like The Hangover Part II, one in which the protagonists might face losing loved ones, financial ruin and all-out nervous breakdowns, the characters needn’t be likeable exactly but the audience really ought to want to see them succeed. Or at least survive. It is in this respect that the film fails totally. Maybe it’s a case of characters wearing thin but, after a point, I really wanted to see Doug, Phil and Alan face some sort of punishment for the things they’d done. Businesses are destroyed, commitments are violated and people are disfigured because of their actions but the Wolfpack is no longer relatable, interesting or even funny enough to want to see make it. There is simply no reason to care for them any longer. With nothing new to do, these characters have grown stale.

The team of alcoholics is joined again by international criminal Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), this time with a much larger role. Less, in this case, is much more. Though amusing as a bit part in the first film, Jeong quickly wears out his welcome. His shrill delivery and legitimately gruesome nudity are no longer funny. Jeong is not an untalented performer and is frequently hilarious on NBC’s Community but nothing can be done to overcome such poor writing and flat direction. The same could be said for the rest of the cast. There isn’t an incompetent actor in the bunch but none can undo the blandness set for them and all become furiously irritating. Hangover Part II feels like the work of a distracted director. Todd Philips, who began his career as a documentarian, seems anxious for a return to his roots. Loving attention is paid to gorgeous cityscapes and inventive montages but this same enthusiasm is nowhere to be found in the rest of the film. The opening title sequence is a gorgeously grimy tour through Bangkok that nicely sets the tone for a brilliantly perverse adventure but one is never delivered.

[spoiler effect=”blind” show=”Show Spoilers” hide=”Hide Spoilers”]As you’d probably suppose, the film ends “happily”. The Wolfpack recovers Teddy, minus a finger, and manage to make it to the wedding with only moments to spare by crashing a speedboat into it. With a large tattoo on his face, Stu confuses wanton irresponsibility for character and brags about a “demon” inside of him that forces him drink uncontrollably and fraternize with prostitutes. His fiancé embraces him happily and her father finally finds respect for his son-in-law. This is nearly unpalatable. Why ought one feel for a character that takes such bizarre pride in his hurtful actions when the character fails even to amuse? [/spoiler]

One of the key factors in separating great comedy from lesser comedy is the quality of characters. Though the first Hangover wasn’t exactly a great comedy, its characters fresh and it played out in a mostly inventive fashion. The same cannot be said of Part II.

When one makes recording of a recording, each new recording is weaker than the last. This will continue until the newer recordings bear no resemblance to the original. The Hangover Part II isn’t so eroded that it shares nothing with the original but it feels like a few recordings too many.

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