The Hangover Part II, Zach Galifanakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, review

On the invitation of a friend, I went to see The Hangover Part II this week.

Up until I received his invitation, I was content to let the second installment in this forgotten weekend franchise slip blissfully below my radar. The trailers and advertisements for the film looked painfully reminiscent of the original film and reviews since then have all but confirmed it. The film has only been in theaters for two weeks, but it's staleness is already legendary.

But, hey. When a buddy calls to see a movie, you put aside your reservations and go. It's the Bro Code.

I suppose the same could be said about The Hangover Part II. Good will among those who saw the original movie was so strong, a sequel was all but demanded by the powers-that-be. When it was first announced, people were pretty excited. But as footage started coming out, that enthusiasm waned - and rightfully so.

It's unfortunate that director and co-writer Todd Phillips couldn't come up with something more than copying and pasting the original Hangover script into a new document, performing a Find and Replace on "Vegas" for "Bangkok" and sprinkling in a few "I can't believe this is happening again!" exclamations from his characters.

Is it wrong to admit that I kind of hate these characters now? In the original Hangover, The Wolf Pack was an oddball assembly of guys who you at once celebrated and sympathized with. For all intents and purposes, they were regular guys caught in extraordinary circumstances who managed to emerge unscathed with a hell of a story to tell.

I think that was part of the appeal behind the original Hangover. Most people wouldn't want to be caught up in the whirlwind those three guys found themselves in. But everyone kind of wishes they had a story like that. It would fuel late-night B.S. sessions for the rest of your life.

But in the sequel, you kind of sit back and think to yourself "How could these morons get wrapped up in this again? Haven't they learned anything?"

To their credit, Ed Helms sheepish dentist Stu seems to have learned something from the original outing. He puts a napkin over his orange juice to keep people from giving him roofies. He barely invited Bradley Cooper's Phil or Justin Bartha's Doug to his wedding. The mentally deranged Alan played by Zach Galifanakis was deliberately kept at arms length.

But there wouldn't be much of a movie if the lead characters exhibited any common sense. So, before you know it, the gang is flying off to Thailand where Stu's fiancee's family (conveniently) calls home. Wackiness ensues.

It's not worth going into the plot because it's a deliberate facsimile of the original. After having ONE (!) beer on the beach together, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in a dingy hotel in Bangkok. What follows is supposed to be a fun mystery as the guys untangle where they've been so they can find Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law - lost during the previous night's revelry.

Yes, there are a few laughs in the movie - due largely to Galifanakis, who can extract laughs out of the most droll situation with a simple, doe-eyed thousand yard stare. His potent combination of inadvertent malevolence and wonder are the only things that keeps the movie on two feet.

Recognition should be afforded to Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow. He shows up early in the film and I felt immediately agitated by his presence. But he is dispatched of fairly quickly. The laughs he earns when he re-materializes in the third act all but negate the nattering annoyance I felt in the first act.

Overall, however, I found myself feeling exceedingly impatient with the proceedings. I wanted the guys to get their next clue and move things along so we could get to the inevitable slideshow of photos capturing their raucous night. And after the photos materialized - like clockwork - I felt insulted by the whole affair. Ashamed that I had put down good money to see a movie I pretty much already owned on DVD back home.

Much like visiting Bangkok itself, I felt very unclean after spending time watching The Hangover Part II.