By Steve Persall
Times Film Critic
It's deja vu all over again in The Hangover Part II, only dirtier and more dangerous, if you can imagine that. If director Todd Phillips used the first movie to see how far he could push the envelope, this one licks and seals it.
The formula is intact: An impending wedding brings together buddies for a bachelor party they can't remember and nearly kills them. Like woozy detectives, they retrace steps through a sinful city to discover what happened. Now the debauchery goes down in Bangkok, and Las Vegas will forever seem tame by comparison.
Stu (Ed Helms) is the blushing groom this time, apparently learning his lesson from Part 1. He prefers a bachelor brunch at a ham-and-eggs joint, covering his glass of OJ so no roofies can be slipped in. Somehow he landed a sweetheart (Jamie Chung) whose rich parents live in Thailand, where the wedding will occur. Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on the guest list; man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis, stealing this movie, too) guilts his way into the trip.
Tagging along is Stu's future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee), a teenage overachiever who's his father's pride and joy. Not only does Teddy become this movie's Doug, missing in action, but he brings out Alan's petulant side as competition for everyone's attention. Once again the setup to oblivion drags — although a backhanded toast to Stu at the rehearsal dinner is funny — but just try taking your eyes off Galifianakis while the cards are shuffled.
A beach bonfire and one beer later, the Wolfpack, as Alan dubbed the crew, wakes up in a seedy Bangkok hotel. Alan's hair is shaved, Stu's face sports a Mike Tyson tattoo and Teddy is missing, except for his severed ring finger. No waylaid baby or tiger this time, but the dope-dealing monkey dressed in biker drag is a stitch.
There isn't much I'm able to tell you about what lies ahead for the Wolfpack; spoiling good jokes isn't my thing, and my job working for a family newspaper is precious to me. But it partly involves the effeminate gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), a burned-out city block, a hooker with a secret but not for long, and kidnapping an elderly monk. These guys know how to party.
Phillips keeps the fool's parade moving at a brisk clip, with one hilarious variation on the formula when Alan meditates his way to a vision of what went down — that entirely acted out by Wolfcubs, children making the Bangkok rounds. Thankfully he retains the end credits shtick with photos taken during the evening, tying up loose ends and showing how low the movie could've sunk into the septic tank. Maybe he's saving the pingpong ball tricks for Part 3.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.