You can't really complain about the fact that literally any successful movie will likely spawn a sequel. If audiences (and that includes you and I) liked a set of characters once, it does seem reasonable to assume they'll like them again -- and, of course, what studio could resist cashing in on the rights to a potential franchise? But while even a movie that was originally meant to stand on its own can often support a clever, entertaining follow-up, you can usually spot the difference between a sequel that's inspired and a sequel that was thrown together for a paycheck. That sounds kind of harsh, though. A sequel can be a little disappointing yet still be funny -- even good. That's definitely the case with The Hangover Part II, a basic do-over where the jokes are just as punchy and wild as the ones in the first movie, but nothing particularly satisfying or clever happens in the story -- ever.
The script revolves around the same guys: the rakish Phil (Bradley Cooper), dorky Stu (Ed Helms), and borderline mentally disabled Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Having flown to Thailand for the destination wedding of Stu to a gorgeous gal named Lauren (Jamie Chung), the friends gather for a few drinks and a few laughs on the beach. By this point, the movie has already spent 20 minutes establishing that Lauren's father hates Stu, and has obsessively high hopes for Lauren's little brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), a 16-year-old concert cellist who's starting a pre-med program at Stanford. So, obviously, we know that when the guys wake up eight hours later with no memory of the previous night's shenanigans (or how they wound up in a seedy Bangkok motel), Teddy will be the member of the ensemble who's missing, and whom they have to track down before they can return to the wedding party -- lest Stu be completely shunned by Lauren's already spiteful family.
But what exactly happened last night? For those paying attention, the explanation for the boys' blackout in the first movie (SPOILER ALERT!) was that Alan roofied everybody. And while I'm not going to spoil any of the questions that pop up in Part II, the questions themselves are pretty telling. Where is the member of their posse that they lost? Can they find him before time runs out? Whose monkey is this? And how did they come into possession of a 75-year-old Tibetan monk in a wheelchair?
You see what I'm getting at. These are the same questions we spent two perfectly delightful hours answering in the first Hangover (specifics about monkeys and monks excluded). Do these questions provide ample opportunity for a ton of outrageous bits, over-the-top jokes, and general insanity? Absolutely. But do the actual answers to any of these questions add up to a remotely interesting, overarching answer to the mystery of what the guys got themselves into last night? No way. The magic of the original film is in the groomsmen piecing together the puzzle, with clues that manage to shock and surprise with each bizarre twist and turn. There are no such surprises here. If something is trashed, the answer is that they got wasted and trashed it. If they have something they shouldn't, it's because they were drunk and they stole it. In the end, the biggest question of all isn't even really "Where's Teddy?" but rather "How did we manage to get ourselves into the exact same mess yet again?"
They do ask this question out loud a number of times, but the movie calling itself out for being repetitive doesn't really change anything. The Hangover II is still funny, though. The laughs are never as side-splittingly enormous as they were in the first movie, yet they're still there in multitudes. Although nothing surprising ever happens in the overall story, the minute-to-minute jokes do pull out plenty of surprises (so to speak -- most of them involve penises). And while a clever and inspired script might have been too much to hope for, The Hangover II still provides a barrage of hard-R humor and a chance for Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis (not to mention Ken Jeong, who reprises the role of Mr. Chow) to skillfully riff on the characters we liked so much the first time around.