Most sequels are born of good box office rather than good ideas — if you build it and they come, you simply must build another one — but it's hard to imagine a more calculating, creatively bankrupt piece of real estate than The Hangover Part II. Trade out Las Vegas for Bangkok, a tiger for a monkey, a lactating hooker for a trannie stripper, a missing tooth for a face tattoo, and you've got Todd Phillips' rote, dispiriting replica of his own surprise comedy smash.
Last time, it was bland bro Doug (Justin Bartha) who got lost on a Vegas rooftop the morning of his own wedding, and now it's straight man Stu (Ed Helms) who gets derailed the Friday before his destination nuptials in Thailand. Stu tries to avoid the inevitable, but once pretty boy Phil (Bradley Cooper) cajoles him into a late-night beer by the bonfire, and man-child moron Alan (Zach Galifianakis) laces the marshmallows with roofies (again), it's blackout time.
When they awake, Alan has been shaved bald, Stu is adorned with the aforementioned Tyson tattoo, there's a denim-vested monkey chain-smoking and bouncing around a grim Bangkok hotel room, and Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law is nowhere to be found. Part II fatally honors the original's premise like it's a sacred text, retracing idiotic high jinks like they're Stations of the Cross.
The only surprise here is how thoroughly unfunny it all is. Like any fantasy, The Hangover offered indulgence without consequence — so long as the trio showed up for the wedding, all was forgiven. But Part II actually tries to heroicize regressive partying. “There's a demon in me,” says Stu with a speedboat trenched on the lawn behind him … and his skeptical father-in-law finally approves. Which clarifies where Phillips lost the plot and, worse, his comedy. When clowns become kings, the joke's on us. (Citywide)