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 were talking “The Hangover.” So this is a little weird: It’s like expecting more and less at the same time.
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 it probably will prefer that first film to this torpid follow-up.
Anyway, 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 8 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 once again up to their blackout-inducing bachelor-party antics and ex post facto deductions thereof, plus Ken Jeong, Mike Tyson, that other guy from the first one (Justin Bartha), a drug-running monkey, a lost little brother (Mason Lee) and Paul Giamatti.
We’re here because the outwardly docile Helms character has found himself a Thai fiancee (Jamie Chung), whose father (Nirut Sirichanya) compares him to bland rice porridge. So his arc will consist of proving himself not easily digestible after all. Loyally, Cooper’s hardy partier and Galifianakis’ manic man-boy will assist.
The men lumber through their paces for a while, then compensate for the resulting stupor with little fits of overacted hysteria. It all 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 unremitting 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 excess 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 inherently amusing thing about this film might be its cast having vetoed a Mel Gibson cameo. Probably the greatest vulgarity on display, aside from one ill-advised spoof of a certain Pulitzer-winning photograph in the obligatory end-credits slideshow, is the sense that a comedy about the deprivation of entitlement should so seem to resent the chore of collecting its inevitably huge box-office take.
Cynical isn’t quite the right word. This doesn’t seem like a movie that had empathy once, but got hurt. (That description better suits its audience.) But at least it does, with its queasy, regret-inducing ache, actually feel like a hangover.