Alan (Galifianakas), Stu (Helms) and Phil (Cooper) awake in another hotel room, unable to remember what's gone down. But this time they're in Thailand, with the trail of mayhem taking in monks, monkeys and a schlong of ladyboys.
There's a reason why Groundhog Day doesn't have a sequel. Comedies built around a high concept may be great for one go-round, but when you try to replicate their USP you’re liable to end up with Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. The makers of the mega-grossing The Hangover have chosen to ignore this rule. The result is this pale Xerox of a movie, which sticks so closely to its predecessor’s blueprint that it plays out more like a remake.
The 2009 original was Very Bad Things via Memento, a cleverly structured dumb comedy about a stag night that wittily skipped the 'good stuff', piecing together the specifics of the debauch like CSI: Las Vegas. For the follow-up, director Todd Phillips has made the logical decision to re-locate to the one place seedier than Sin City: Bangkok. Through a hazily sketched-out set-up — dentist Stu (Ed Helms) is set to wed a non-mail-order Thai bride (Jamie Chung) - the gang are reunited and set loose in another mean metropolis. Except where the first film pinballed from surprise to surprise (hooker! Tiger! Tyson!), here the screenwriters have settled for tapping 'Find & Replace'.
There's another creature, in the shape of an impish monkey in a Rolling Stones jacket that’s probably not official merchandise (note to all involved: animals smoking aren’t funny). There’s another sex worker, in the form of a stripper with a secret that would make Alan Partridge go, “A-ha!”. There are more Kanye West music cues, another travel-show montage over the opening credits, a second bride-to-be, a further big speech from Helms at the end… All this recycling might be a conscious choice, but it results in a caper that’s listless where it should be anarchic.
The humour’s even raunchier than before, leading to some cringily funny vignettes, most involving lunatic loudmouth Alan (Zach Galifianakis) or preening crime lord Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) — although the much-discussed tattoo-artist character, who was to be played by Mel Gibson/ Liam Neeson and is actually played by Nick Cassevetes, is disappointingly only there to deliver exposition. But where the film succeeds in making Bangkok look like a sleazy, decrepit hellhole, it seems less concerned with finding actual jokes. One plot-strand involving Paul Giamatti stands out as being particularly devoid of laughter and thrills.
A Get Him To The Greek-style spin-off with Alan at the forefront might have been a better way to capitalise on the Wolf Pack’s chemistry. Instead, we’ve ended up with one very padded Thai adventure.
According to Phillips, the 'Part II' in the title is a nod to the second Godfather, which matched the genius of its forerunner. Ironically, his own sequel offer is one you should refuse.