The Hangover 2

It has a new setting, a new bride, but few new ideas - Todd Phillips' sequel is a major comedown

Ever get the feeling you’ve been here before? That’s because you have. To all intents and purposes, The Hangover II is The Hangover. And it has nothing to do with déjà vu.

Todd Phillips’ sequel to the surprise hit of 2009 is perhaps the most uninventive follow-up in movie history, a lazy rehash of a decade-defining comedy.

The Hangover II features the same pre-wedding set up, the same non-linear storyline, the same plot points (you could set your watch to them), even the same end credits treatment. The characters return, but this time they are lesser, two-dimensional versions of their former selves, more selfish and irresponsible than they should ever have been allowed to become.

By the time the final digital photograph has shown, you feel like screaming for the total lack of originality on display. Talk about a comedown! Still, The Hangover II is predictably outrageous - more so than The Hangover - and there are enough jokes and moments of tension to keep you from nodding off.

This time, it's Stu (Ed Helms) who is getting hitched. Sadly, there is no sign of Heather Graham's likeable hooker, whom Stu married in Vegas in the first film. She has been replaced by the stunning Lauren (Jamie Chung), the daughter of a Thai businessman. He, in turn, is perhaps the most shallow character in either of the Hangover films, and (ever get the feeling you've been here before?) mocks the dentist Stu, who 'isn't a real doctor'.

The boys fly over to Thailand for the wedding, and, as the bride and the rest of the girls settle down for bed (as they do, in Todd Philips' world, without a peep), the boys head to the beach for a nightcap. They raise their bottles of Bud, toast the groom, and celebrate the return of the 'wolf pack'. Fade to black - cue brooding music, the sun rising over the city...

Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the crew wake up with monstrous hangovers in Bangkok, with one of their party missing. Stu has a tattoo on his face (in place of the missing tooth), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has had his head shaved. They have a number of leads in their pockets and a monkey in their room. The only thing missing is the baby in the cupboard. It's infuriatingly predictable.

So, where are the saving graces? Ken Jeong, as the inept career criminal and hip-hop lingo expert Mr Chow, is hilarious throughout - he is the best thing about The Hangover II by a long way. His brazen behaviour and eternal optimism keep the story chugging along, and when he is unceremoniously nabbed by the Feds, it's all down hill from there.

We get some funny insights into Alan, a 'stay at home son', who bosses his mom around via intercom and finds his tao in a Buddhist colony with remarkable ease. And a visit to a Bangkok brothel (and the memories of what happened there last night) is as good as scene as any in the first film.

But, by the end of things - after Stu has delivered a weak riposte worthy of some twee rom-com like Father of the Bride to his unreasonable future father-in-law - you're left gagging to drown your sorrows. This is not an uplifting film, like The Hangover, about friendship through adversity. Rather, it's a chauvanist lad's mag sell-out with little heart and no identity of its own.

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore developed a highly original script with The Hangover, one filled with many unexpected twists and turns, absurd but sympathic characters and rib-crunching one-liners. They have been done a disservice with this hollow follow-up. If there is to be a third film in the franchise (and recent box office receipts would suggest that there will be), perhaps a change of director might be in order.

The Hangover 2 is showing in Movie House Cinemas now.

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