By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

“I can’t believe this is happening again,” says one of the incredulous characters in The Hangover Part II. But he says it only once.

I said it to myself over and over again watching this doddering dud of a sequel.

A pale imitation of an already shaky original, The Hangover Part II is such a slavish regurgitation of the Hangover formula that the makers should have just called it The Leftover.   Or The Do-Over.

The randy and raunchy 2009 hit comedy The Hangover was an arbitrarily plotted bachelor-party-gone-kablooey comedy with plenty of dead spots and a few welcome bursts of hysteria.

The sequel is just dead spots.

That it’s the riding-the-coattails followup to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time makes its existence an inevitability, to be sure.  And we knew it would be a why-mess-with-success remix of the same elements.

But did it have to be such a wan, by-the-numbers duplicate?

Rarely has a movie entered the marketplace depending so completely on the goodwill and memories of its core audience, as generated by its predecessor.

Once again, we have a lost night, a stray animal (a monkey replaces the tiger), someone missing, a ticking clock, a shaggy dog story, debauched steps to retrace, collective amnesia, master thespian Mike Tyson, and a race to show up for a wedding.

Oooh, look, a smidge of inventiveness!  A mysterious facial tattoo instead of a mysterious chipped tooth.  Wow.

The feeling of déjà vu doesn’t just emerge from every scene, but from every frame.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha reprise their roles as Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug, respectively. The buddies are headed for a bachelor party — it’s Stu who’s getting hitched now. All he wants is a friendly, low-key pre-wedding brunch with his “wolfpack” buds.

But this time, because dentist Stu is engaged to Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose parents live in Thailand, the nuptials are in Bangkok rather than in Las Vegas — and that’s about the only item that’s different the second time around.

The director of the original Hangover, Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip, Due Date), returns, co-producing again but this time co-scripting as well (along with Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong), and exhibiting even less discipline and control than last time.

And in his redux he offers nothing in the way of novelty — just lazy, cynical echoes of two years ago.

Ken Jeong, returning from the first film, and Paul Giamatti, new to the cast, play gangsters.  Either or both would seem sure to raise the film’s game, but both are ill-served by the dispiriting script and neither is shown or used to any kind of comedic advantage.

In other words, they fit right in.

If you found the first Hangover sporadically funny but problematic, as I did, prepare yourself for a precipitous drop in entertainment satisfaction in this second go-round.  On the other hand, if you swear by the original, you might be a lot better off sitting through it again rather than enduring this sorry successor.

So we’ll drink to 1 star out of 4 for a carbon copy that’s mighty sloppy, and that’s still hung over from the success of its predecessor.  The Hangover was a glass half empty.   Part II is just empty.

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