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The same formula doesn't work in 'The Hangover Part II.'

'THE HANGOVER PART II': Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms star.
  • 'THE HANGOVER PART II': Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms star.

The first sign, among dozens, that "The Hangover Part II" is going to forego humor in favor of unvarnished misanthropy comes in the first five minutes. The two semi-sensible returnees from the first bro-romp farce — that would be Ed Helms as Stu and Bradley Cooper as Phil — are parting after Stu, a dentist, has just given his friend a checkup. We've just gotten most of the movie's necessary exposition: Stu is to be wed in a couple of weeks far away in his bride's ancestral Thailand, and Phil is hacked off that he has to shell out for a plane trip to an Asian paradise rather than just see the knot tied in Vegas. As Phil leaves, Stu calls after him to return the prescription pad he apparently pinched. Phil walks back, pulls the crinkled pad from deep in his underwear and plops it on the counter. Stu tells his friend that stealing the pad is a felony, you know. Phil replies, "F— you."

F— you! Get it? No? Well that's all the punch line you're going to find here, so if you don't like it, see above. That's more or less the tone to this, the utterly contrived, wholly unnecessary sequel to the 2009 instant classic that became the highest-earning R-rated comedy ever. There are a few real punch lines in "The Hangover Part II" but more punches, a few legitimate gags but more gagging. The Zach Galifianakis character, Alan, who turned irritable but earnest loneliness into pure hilarity in "The Hangover," has been melted down to a petty, jealous whiner who's about as likeable as rug burn. He's the worst of the lot, but there may not be a single character in the entire movie that you look forward to hearing talk. Aside from the location scouts, who briefly enjoyed the world's most enviable job, it's not clear that anyone involved with making the movie had an ounce of fun. There's nothing new here, and what's repeated was made worse.

The script (by returning director Todd Phillips plus Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong) unfurls more like a send-up of the original than a sequel. In the first movie, four friends (the aforementioned trio plus Justin Bartha as Doug, featured sparingly in both) convene in Vegas for bachelor party debauchery too close for comfort to the wedding, and because Alan thinks it would be a hoot to drug everyone, he, Stu and Phil wake up amid hotel room mayhem with no notion of how they acquired a baby and a tiger and lost the groom.

This time, Doug hangs back and again, Stu and Phil and Alan come to in a dirtbag Bangkok hotel room after a night of who-knows-what to realize they have no memories of how they acquired Stu's face tattoo and a monkey in a Rolling Stones jacket and lost the bride's teen-aged brother, whose finger, Stanford class ring and all, is floating in a bowl of water. And when one of them blurts, "I can't believe this is happening again," your heart goes out.

That repetition in itself isn't a deal-breaker; there's no harm in a movie rhyming with another, if it's funny. But "The Hangover Part II" simply isn't, except in unsteady bursts. It is loud, though. Lots of gunfire and people shouting to calm each other down and cars going vroom. It's also lewd, unless you're accustomed to seeing transsexual strippers' genitals jangling free like janitors' keys. Considering all the grief it visits upon the so-called Wolf Pack, it seems fair to say that this movie hates its characters. It's appropriate, too, that the most gratifyingly funny moment in the film comes when someone unexpectedly keels over, since the message to audiences couldn't be plainer: Drop dead.

Sam Eifling

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