When I recently compared “Bridesmaids” to “The Hangover,” I wasn’t being altogether complimentary. Now that I’ve seen “The Hangover Part II,” I must apologize to the “Bridesmaids” people. By comparison, their movie is “Citizen Kane.”
I can understand why this sequel to “The Hangover” exists. That movie was no masterpiece either, but it was intermittently laugh-out-loud funny and, more to my point, it made about $500 million. Its follow-up, not surprisingly, doesn’t mess much with the template, but there’s a disturbing shift in tone: This one is darker and scummier, to no real purpose.
Set in Bangkok, where life apparently is cheap, the sequel has straight-laced dentist Stu (Ed Helms) preparing for his nuptials with his Wolf Pack, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), in tow. Thailand is the home country of Stu’s fiancée (Jamie Chung), whose father is not a fan of the marriage. (In a prewedding toast he compares the groom to boiled white rice, which sounds about right actually.)
Despite Stu’s efforts to avoid what happened at Doug’s bachelor party in Las Vegas – i.e., “The Hangover” – things quickly take a turn for the wild side. The plot, such as it is, turns on a severed finger belonging to the fiancée’s brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), and a chain-smoking capuchin monkey (mercifully, the smoking was CGI). Paul Giamatti, seething his lines, turns up as an apparently shady businessman. Stu finds himself with a facial tattoo à la Mike Tyson.
Throughout it all, director Todd Phillips and his co-writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong provide thudding action film sequences that are anything but funny and not all that well staged either. It’s as if the filmmakers were hungover from the first film and wanted to make a violent action movie instead. This is the same thing that happened to the “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise, which quickly turned into something more suitable for Sly Stallone than Eddie Murphy.
I realize that it’s beside the point to take seriously anything that happens in “The Hangover Part II.” Still, I can’t dismiss the ugliness behind many of its antics. Teddy, for example, is touted as a promising classical cellist and future surgeon. Why is his losing a finger supposed to be such a laugh riot? I guess you had to be there. But really, dear moviegoers, you don’t have to be at theaters playing this movie. Grade: D+ (Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content, including graphic nudity, drug use, and brief violent images.)