By Susan JAMES
Comedy walks a fine line between hilarity and hysteria, guffaws and gross-outs and in director Todd Phillips’ eagerly awaited sequel to the 2009 megahit “The Hangover,” hysteria and gross-outs win. What was fresh, outrageous and unexpected in the original, and side-splittingly funny as well, here is forced, predictable and increasingly desperate.
Two years have passed since valiant metro-warriors Phil, Stu and Doug (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha) together with space jockey Alan (Zach Galifianakis) went to Las Vegas for Doug’s bachelor party, met a tiger and a hooker, broke the bank and nearly missed Doug’s wedding. That little adventure is something Phil, Stu and Doug would like to forget and Alan can’t seem to let go. Dentist Stu is now engaged to the woman of his dreams, exotically beautiful Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose Thai father hates his soon-to-be son-in-law’s guts for reasons never explained. Lauren’s parents insist on a Thailand wedding for their only daughter and Phil, Stu and Doug, dragging the hapless Alan behind them like a dirty blanket, head off for the delights of Asia.
Having learned his lesson in Las Vegas, Stu is wary of eating or drinking anything that could be drugged but he fails the marshmallow around the campfire test and once again Alan doctors the food to give his friends a treat. Waking up the next day in a sleazy hotel room that puts the bang back in Bangkok, Stu now sports a full-on Maori face tattoo and is the proud possessor of a severed finger in a cup of water. There’s also an apparently dead, cocaine-snorting drug dealer, the memorable Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), crashed on the coffee table. Stu’s wedding is only a day away, and somewhere in the slums of Bangkok he seems to have lost Justin, the 16-year-old younger brother of his future bride (effectively played by Mason Lee, son of director Ang Lee). Hilarity ensues.
The centerpiece of the film consists of an increasingly frantic search by Phil and Stu (Alan is interested in other things) for the lost Justin while being chased by Russian goons, undercover feds and a variety of skanky side-kicks of the resurrected Mr. Chow. Money, drugs, revenge and bank codes feature heavily. The humor is keyed off of a cigarette-smoking monkey with whom Alan feels a deep spiritual bond, a grinning octogenarian Buddhist monk who has taken a vow of silence and a gyrating transvestite with whom Stu spent a few special hours which at first he can’t remember and then he can never forget.
As with its predecessor, all’s well that end’s well. Stu wins over Lauren’s father by talking tough and returning the lost Justin minus a finger (saying farewell to his medical school training and cello playing). All the women accept the shenanigans without a blink and no one really blames poor old Alan for his poor old choices. Worst off in this sorry story is the city Bangkok itself. The Thailand Tourist Board should sue for defamation of character. Never has a romantic hot spot looked so hungover.
See you at the movies!