x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Hangover Part II

The second instalment of the Hangover franchise is set in Bangkok but otherwise barely moves on from its predecessor.

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha
*** 

Two years ago, The Hangover emerged out of nowhere to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever in America. So it comes as no surprise that Todd Phillips, the director, has stuck rigidly to the same formula with this second outing for the so-called Wolf Pack.

The original saw its hapless heroes lose their bridegroom-to-be after a bachelor party in Las Vegas, and this repeats the trick almost exactly, offering barely enough novelty value to lure fans in again.

Swapping Sin City for Thailand's den of supposed iniquity, Bangkok, this time it's the turn of dentist Stu (Ed Helms) to get married. No, not to Heather Graham's character from the original, who isn't even mentioned, but to a Thai girl called Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose wealthy father has taken an instant dislike to Stu despite paying for a luxurious seaside wedding.

Along for the ride are Stu's best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha), as well as Doug's socially awkward brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).

One low-key beach party later and, before you can say "déjà vu", Phil, Alan and Stu are waking up in a grimy Bangkok hotel room. This time, the missing person is Lauren's 16-year-old brother Teddy (Mason Lee), who has joined them to celebrate, much to Alan's chagrin.

All they can find of him is a severed finger in an ice bucket; meanwhile, Alan's head is shaved, Stu has a tribal tattoo on his face and Phil has attracted the attention of a drug-dealing monkey.

With just a few hours to find the absent teenager and get back to the resort - where Doug has been left - for the wedding, the clock starts ticking. Again.

The new screenwriters Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong won't win any points for originality, but you can't blame them. Despite the rather grand title, this was never going to be The Godfather Part II. Fans of the first won't be looking for greater scope; just another jigsaw puzzle (with all the juicy bits, once more, saved for a still-photo montage in the end-credits).

It doesn't help that the first act is under-worked. Alan's early dislike of Teddy comes across as just plain nasty and Galifianakis has trouble getting his bearings, almost excruciatingly so.

But when the Thai mystery gets under way, reuniting them with Ken Jeong's squealing gangster Mr Chow from the first film, the laughs start to flow freely.

If there's one thing that's missing - and this may be explained by Heather Graham's absence - it's a bit of heart. Jamie Chung aside, the film lacks a female presence, which gave the original its balance.

This is a more macho experience - car-chases and crime-lords and so on. Even the usually placid Paul Giamatti drops in for a foul-mouthed cameo. Young men looking for a raucous night out will probably enjoy it all, but everyone else may prefer to sit this one out.