The Hangover Part II; R, 201 minutes; Carmike Cinema 6


 It’s not the worst, as group-of-dudes comedy sequels go. We’re not talking Ghostbusters II here. But of course we weren’t talking Ghostbusters to begin with. We’re talking The Hangover. So this is a little weird: It’s like expecting more and expecting less at the same time.

Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis take the Hangover franchise to Bangkok for a bachelor party and subsequent game of “What did we do last night?”

The trouble starts early, with that “based on characters created by” credit. What, so Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers of the original, were too good for this? Possibly, yes. Even viewers repulsed by the first will probably prefer that first film to this torpid follow-up.
Where writing is concerned (it seems unconcerned), director Todd Phillips does the dishonors himself, along with Scot Armstrong, who co-wrote Old School with him, and Craig Mazin, who, uh, was one of eight writers on Scary Movie 3 and one of nine on Scary Movie 4. It’s hard to discern each man’s contributions here, but there is a depressing sense of mutual devaluation.

But where were we? Oh yes, Bangkok—with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. The trio is up to its blackout-inducing bachelor-party antics and after-the-fact deductions thereof. Joining them this time is Ken Jeong, Mike Tyson, that other guy from the first one (Justin Bartha), a drug-running monkey, a lost little brother and Paul Giamatti.

We’re in Bangkok because the outwardly docile Helms character has found himself a Thai fiancee (Jamie Chung), whose father (Nirut Sirichanya) compares him to bland rice porridge. He intends to prove that he is not easily digestible after all. Loyally, Cooper’s hardy partier and Galifianakis’ manic man-boy assist.

The men lumber through their paces for a while, then compensate for the resulting stupor with little fits of overacted hysteria. The film just sort of drags. Yes, the antics are “outrageous.” A clerical effort has been made to restage plot points from the earlier film, but rather than matching its predecessor’s unexpected delights, The Hangover Part II manages mostly disappointments. Where before there was debauchery, now we have, what, rebauchery? It would be ridiculous to speak of innocence lost, so let’s call it innocence calloused by too much abrasiveness—grating motions too often gone through.

As gags flop and various surly phobias bloom into knee-jerk hatefulness, we’re left to consider that the most interesting thing about this film is that its cast vetoed a Mel Gibson cameo. This doesn’t seem like a movie that had empathy once, but it got hurt. That might better describe its audience. But at least it does, with its queasy, regret-inducing ache, actually feel like a hangover.