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Review: ‘The Hangover 2’

Been There, Done That 2

Above: Yep, those bad boys from "The Hangover" are at it again in "The Hangover 2."

If you don't like movies with a number at the end of their title you may have to skip the whole summer season of Hollywood releases. So on the heels of "Pirates 4" comes "The Hangover 2" (opening May 26 throughout San Diego).

Getting an early jump on the Memorial Day weekend, "The Hangover 2" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" are both opening today to give the summer movie season its official launch.

Side by side comparison: 2009's "The Hangover" and 2011's "The Hangover 2." Can you spot the differences?

Warner Brothers

Above: Side by side comparison: 2009's "The Hangover" and 2011's "The Hangover 2." Can you spot the differences?

Two years ago "The Hangover" surprised everyone. Not only was it genuinely funny, it became the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. Now the team that brought you the first film are back to see if they can work their magic again. And for better or worse, they have decided to stick very close to the original formula rather than try something new.

The first film was about a bachelor party in Vegas that goes horribly wrong. The twist was that the film starts the morning after. It poses the question: what happens when the partygoers wake up and can't remember anything from the night before. And to make matters worse, the groom-to-be is M.I.A.? What was so much fun was that it turned the bachelor party film on its head by not showing us the party -- it's like a heist film without the heist. It was funny and felt fresh. For "The Hangover 2," it's the same exact formula only swap out the grooms, swap a tiger for a monkey, and swap out Vegas for Bangkok.

Zach Galinfianakis, Masoin Lee, Ed Helms, and Bradley Cooper star in "The Hangover 2."

Warner Brothers

Above: Zach Galinfianakis, Masoin Lee, Ed Helms, and Bradley Cooper star in "The Hangover 2."

So now it's Stu (Ed Helms) who is getting married to his Thai girlfriend (the whole romance with Heather Graham's hooker from the first film is nothing but a faded memory now), and for her parents' sake the wedding is in Thailand. Even though Stu tries his best to avoid a bachelor party and any kind of pre-wedding shenanigans, he, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) end up repeating the same scenario as the one that preceded Doug's wedding. Only this time instead of losing Doug (Justin Bartha) they lose the bride's baby brother Teddy (Mason Lee).

Ken Jeong may just be the best thing in "The Hangover 2."

Warner Brothers

Above: Ken Jeong may just be the best thing in "The Hangover 2."

The question for viewers is, will swapping out a few elements keep enough of the humor intact to make them want to come back for more? Chances are the answer is yes. But "The Hangover 2" is not nearly as fun or as fresh as the first film. Part of the problem is inherent in the very nature of doing a sequel like this. The cleverness of the first film's narrative twist is no longer fresh, and there's no way to replay it so that it is. So right off the bat the sequel is at a disadvantage. The next problem is that Bangkok is not as funny a backdrop as Vegas. I mean getting a tooth knocked out and losing your friend in a tourist city is amusing; having someone chop off their finger and then losing a teenager in a potentially dangerous foreign country is a little harder to laugh at.

But that being said, "The Hangover 2" generates a fair share of laughs and most of those are due to the return of Ken Jeong as the hilarious Mr. Chow. Jeong's Chow is a riotously inappropriate character and he's brought back, given a different type of role to play, and used to good effect. But everyone else pretty much retraces their characters' steps from the first film. So Helms' Stu is generally panic stricken, Galifianakis' Alan is like a child with Asperger's syndrome, and Cooper's Phil is just trying to manage the troops and make sense of everything. The chemistry is not quite as good as in the first film but the actors are appealing and they keep the story moving along nicely.

Todd Phillips (center) on the set of "The Hangover 2."

Warner Brothers

Above: Todd Phillips (center) on the set of "The Hangover 2."

"Old School's" Todd Phillips is back at the helm for "The Hangover 2." So the raunchy, male-oriented humor prevails. The jokes are fairly predictable and the formula has the audience waiting for all the expected plot turns to occur. Even the things that seem planned as surprises don't turn out to be much of a surprise. So there's a certain ho-hum quality to the comedy where we laugh because we fully expect the laughs to occur where they do. The funniest thing might be the photos at the end showing what really happened. I think I got more laughs from that montage than from the film as a whole.

"The Hangover 2" (rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use, and brief violent images) is a competent if unexciting sequel, like hearing a joke where you already know the punchline. It delivers what you'd expect from the team that brought you the first film but nothing new... unless you think a monkey smoking and Thai trannies are something new and exciting.

Companion viewing: "The Hangover," "Very Bad Things," "Beautiful Boxer"

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