When it came out in 2009, The Hangover quickly established itself -- at least for me -- as the gold standard for movie comedy, the film against which subsequent movie comedies would be judged.
It was that rare film that managed to be consistently funny from start to finish, without any lulls or slow spots. It was better than Anchorman or The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up or any other film you can name that's been released in this century.
So it's not surprising that they would make The Hangover Part II. Nor is it a shock that this second bite of the apple doesn't go down as easily as the first.
Part of it, of course, is that The Hangover had the element of surprise on its side. Sure, director Todd Phillips had a track record that included Road Trip and Old School -- but neither of those was as critically acclaimed as The Hangover. And Phillips had yet to be recognized as some sort of comedy auteur, perhaps because his resume also includes Starsky & Hutch and School for Scoundrels, along with last year's iffy Due Date.
Add this year's Hangover II to the debit side of the Phillips ledger. This follow-up makes the mistake of most sequels to self-contained stories: It tries to tell the same story again, with slight variations and bigger, louder, raunchier jokes and action. More, as it often does, turns out to be less.
Not that there aren't a handful of big laughs in HO2. It's just that they're separated by long gaps of frenzied activity that doesn't produce laughter. Bigger, broader - but not as funny.
Mitigating the laugh factor further: Two of the film's funniest reveals have been given away in the commercials -- Ed Helms' Mike Tyson-like face tattoo (now the subject of a copyright lawsuit) and Zach Galifianakis' shaved head. It's the comedy equivalent of premature ejaculation.
This time out, dentist Stu (Helms) is the one who's getting married - to the daughter of a tycoon from Thailand (a Thai-coon?). And his future father-in-law openly refers to Stu as the Thai equivalent of milquetoast.
Stu's friends Doug (Justin Bartha) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) are on board for the trip to Southeast Asia for the wedding. But Stu has to be talked into inviting Doug's brother-in-law, Alan (Galifianakis), too; Stu hasn't forgiven Alan for drugging him on their Vegas trip. And Stu is adamant: No bachelor party.
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