‘Hangover’ sequel, a hollow imitation of the original

Though a raunchy romp, the follow-up is all too familiar.

The Hangover Part II
Warner Bros./Courtesy

Bros, rejoice as the wolf pack is back and ready to wreak havoc in the hustling and bustling streets of…Bangkok? Sure, the slums of Thailand are a far cry from the glamour of Vegas but it’s a surprisingly fitting location for this zany sequel. The antics are crazier and the characters are shadier, making Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover: Part II” a much darker copy of its predecessor. But “copy” is the operative word here. Almost a frame-by-frame parallel of the original,  the film simply uproots the infamous debauchery of the gang’s Sin City adventures and places them in a new setting.

A familiar tale in this modern age of Apatow-esque comedies, we all know the story by heart: A bachelor party has gone berserk and now the participants must rummage through their hazy memories to piece together the night. But wait, you may ask, didn’t Doug (Justin Bartha) already tie the knot the last time we saw him? Not to be left out of the matrimonial loop, the dull Stu (Ed Helms) surprises us all with his engagement to the stunning Lauren (Jamie Chung). Add Phil (Bradley Cooper), newcomer Teddy (Mason Lee) and crowd-pleaser Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to the mix and you have a wolf pack reunion, venturing to Thailand in honor of Stu’s upcoming nuptial.

A wise man for wanting to steer clear of what happened in Vegas, the initially calm and collected Stu brushes away the thought of a bachelor’s party. He is perfectly satisfied with an innocent bachelor’s brunch, courtesy of I-Hop and much to the chagrin of his friends. But wishes are rarely respected — one bonfire and a bag of seemingly innocuous marshmallows later, the disheveled trio wakes up in a crumbling room amidst empty bottles and other useless remnants. And so the journey begins.

“It happened again,” laments Phil to his distressed wife. The camera then pans to the others sitting on the steps, groggy-eyed and remorseful. History repeats itself and unfortunately, we can predict this plot progression all too easily. Switch a missing Doug for a M.I.A. Teddy, replace roofies with muscle relaxants, structure a frenzied chase through the streets of Bangkok instead of the Strip, and it becomes “The Hangover” all over again, minus the refreshing originality of the first.

Admittedly, though the outcome is predictable, even the most vivid of imaginations could not have fabricated such an odyssey. And here is where the appeal of the film comes into play. Blurring with lines of morality, “The Hangover: Part II” pulls in a wide range of characters. There’s a drug-carrying monkey, inhaling cigarettes in what I sincerely hope are CGI-generated scenes. There’s a monk in a wheelchair, soaking in sinful experiences. And for the piece de la resistance, there is one of Thailand’s famous transgender hookers, responsible for one of the film’s most knee-slapping moments.

The flashy and raunchy sequences of the sequel, however, inevitably pale in comparison to the first film. “The Hangover” stunned, and eventually delighted, audiences with its drunken-fueled shenanigans. And while its successor tries to siphon off some of that commercial and critical success, it simply doesn’t work. The intrigue is gone. Not even the show-stealing monkey or Galifianakis’s trademark derpness can bring back the intrigue. Absent are the subtle humor, replaced by blatant one-liners that are much too in-your-face and desperate. While “The Hangover: Part 2” works if you’re looking for a few laughs, ultimately the film is merely a tired-out retelling — fleetingly enjoyable but quickly forgettable.

Cynthia Kang is the arts editor.