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Mel Gibson, Transexuals and 5 Other Things (Good and Bad) About The Hangover 2

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The Hangover Part II is getting a bad rap. Don't get me wrong, it's not, you know, "good." But it has no business being at 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The vehemence of the negativity is steeped in the success and originality of the first film.

And no one -- no one -- not director/co-writer Todd Phillips' best friend from 6th grade, not his favorite auntie, not his dog, is going to call this sequel fresh. It's the same three guys doing the exact same thing, except instead of Vegas, it's Thailand. Ed Helms loses a tooth in #1, he gets a face tattoo in #2. They lose the groom in #1, they lose the groom's future brother-in-law in #2. There's a tiger in the bathroom in #1, it's a monkey in #2. CSI: Tuscon would have more originality.

Lack of creative imagination aside, there's good and bad ... slightly more good. Emphasis on "slightly."

1. Good -- Paul Giamatti joins the cast. Name a movie that gets worse because Giamatti is in it. Go ahead ... I'll wait.

2. Bad -- No Mel Gibson. His cameo was dropped after Warner Brothers took heat for casting him in the first place. But after seeing his impressive turn in The Beaver, he would've livened up dull stretches of the film. And maybe audiences could've forgiven his suggestion to his girlfriend that "if you get raped by a pack of n-words, it will be your fault."

3. Good -- No Mel Gibson. Are you out of your f'ing mind? He told his girlfriend, "if you get..." Never mind, I can't even type it again.

4. Good -- Including transexuals. Todd Phillips shot the movie in Bangkok. Leaving them out would be like shooting a movie in Canada and not using Mounties (To be fair, I've never been to Bangkok ... and I've barely been to Canada).

5. Bad -- Long stretches where Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis patrol the city looking for Helms' future brother-in-law. It feels as if dogged adherence to the plot points of the original boxed Phillips into a corner. The story loses the freedom to be funnier because it's forced to follow a pre-determined template.

Maybe instead of losing a person, they lose a disc containing information vital to Ed Helms' future father-in-law's company -- and if they don't find it, they'll bankrupt the guy (OK, that totally blows and I'm not a screenwriter ... but something to get out of what was very clearly a creative bind).

6. Good -- The interaction between Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis. They're funny together. They just are.

7. Bad -- Too much Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow. A lot of people loved him in the first film. I did not -- having seen enough of stereotypical, easily mocked, seemingly gay Asian characters before. Ken Jeong is a very talented guy (check out Community, Knocked Up and Role Models), but Mr. Chow eats the scenery.

8. Good -- The pictures over the closing credits. As with the original, these get raunchier and riskier by the photo. And one in particular is sure to generate controversy. It spoofs one of the most famous and gut-wrenching pictures from the Vietnam War, one you've surely seen and will never forget. Roger Ebert was offended, writing that the movie "desecrated" the original photo. Roger is not alone -- there were some groans in my theater, but I laughed hard -- thought it was bold ... and very funny.

As for the rest of the movie, eh, not so much, but hardly a disaster. Think of it as a decent high school football player who suffers from having an older brother who was all-state two years earlier.

(My friend, AP film critic Christy Lemire, who's also one of the hosts of Ebert Presents At the Movies, suggested the filmmakers were either "lazy, arrogant or a combination of the two." You can watch me, Christy and Matt Atchity from Rotten Tomatoes debate and discuss The Hangover Part II on our weekly show, What The Flick?!).

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