A monk, a monkey and three dumbasses walk into a monastery…

Putting aside for a minute the fact its bad boy attitude was a total fraud, the problem with the first The Hangover (review) was that all of the laughs were contained in the numerous red and green band trailers that helped the movie become the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. The good news is that The Hangover Part II does not make the same mistake. The bad news is that’s only because there weren’t any funny parts to put in the trailers in the first place. It’s a different setting (Bangkok takes over for Las Vegas), but it’s the same old mystery (a missing wolf pack member!) and a lot fewer jokes that hit the mark. All that’s left is ugly, unfunny and worst of all dull.

The odds of the sequel being any good were probably small since the first movie was really just a sheep in R-rated wolf’s clothing, but the negative reviews oddly made it sound promising. A number of critics referred to the sequel’s cruder and darker tone so it seemed as if The Hangover Part II might offer what the first film only teased. Plus, if most critics tumbled for a movie that really wasn’t that funny, maybe they’d reject one that really had the balls to bring the laughs? Maybe? Nope not even close.

I guess I should just admit that the cinematic appeal of Zach Galifianakis is completely lost on me. I’ve seen and enjoyed some of his stand-up act and he was promising in the otherwise completely wretched It’s Kind of a Funny Story, but mostly his on screen comic persona is grating at best. The audience seems to eat it up though so he’s doing something right.

Bradley Cooper plays a pretty great asshole, but the ultimate heart of gold he’s supposed to have is never convincing and feels like a complete cop-out. Which it is. He’s better in something like Wedding Crashers where he plays the bad guy.

Asian cartoon Ken Jeong wore out his dubious welcome in bit parts in Knocked Up (review) and Pineapple Express (review). By the time he was given fuller reign in The Hangover, it was way too much. Now that he’s on TV every week (NBC’s Community), the idea of spending 90 minutes with him on a big screen is almost unbearable. Luckily, for most of The Hangover Part II he’s… well that’s a spoiler. Suffice it to say writer/director Todd Phillips at least realizes a little Jeong goes a long way.

It turns out that Ed Helms was the best part of The Hangover and for the most part he steps up to the plate here. He’s less openly a dork this time than he was in the first movie though and his response to the horrors around him is actually pretty normal. The truth is, he’s better in the terrific Cedar Rapids (review) where he’s given an opportunity to really shine.

What’s really odd about The Hangover Part II is that it’s not even a comedy in the traditional sense. There’s no comic momentum. There are no set piece bits of comedy. Most of the humor, such as it is, comes from a smoking monkey and pre-op tranny hookers. The rest is just a grim slog through the uglier parts of Bangkok. There’s a backbone story where Helms has to prove his manhood to his future father-in-law, but it feels artificially injected so the movie can pull another fake feel-good finish out of its ass. Just like the first one, the sequel fails to deliver on its raunchy, edgy promise. It didn’t even have the balls to stick with a Mel Gibson cameo.

The movie really should’ve been kind of a crazy action mystery with bits of raucous humor tossed around, but Phillips has neither the action stones nor the sensibility to successfully pull that off. He excels at a kind of macho, mean-spirited douchebag humor that in the end is always finally completely emasculated in order to appeal to the date night crowd. I have to admit that it’s completely working for him and he’s got another huge hit on his hands. Just don’t mistake box office for the movie being any good.

This isn’t quite a Beverly Hills Cop II level step down, but that’s only because of the difference in quality between the originals. Just like the Tony Scott sequel, The Hangover Part II is dreary, mean and unpleasant, relying almost entirely on your affection for the original while forgetting to do anything new, fresh and funny. By the time Mike Tyson is dragged out for a desultory and airless cameo at the end, whatever good will you may have felt for the first film seems like little more than a hazy, hungover, booze and drug-fueled nightmare.

The Hangover Part II. USA 2011. Directed by Todd Phillips. Written by Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong and Todd Phillips. Cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Edited by Debra Neil-Fisher and Make Sale. Original music by Christophe Beck. Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee and Crystal the Monkey. 1 hour 42 minutes. MPAA rated R. 1.5 stars (out of 5)

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