Zach Galifianakis has the body of a troll, the woolly face of a hermit, and the spirit of a sprite. He does not, in other words, look, sound, or act anything like a conventional movie star. Galifianakis fits the Falstaffian fat-guy archetype embodied by the late John Belushi, but there’s something legitimately unhinged at his core that lends the seedy new lowbrow sequel The Hangover Part II its vague, not entirely earned air of danger and transgression. The Bangkok setting also contributes: The city, filmed by Lawrence Sher as a smoldering hellhole with a rapacious appetite for foreigners innocent and otherwise, does half the film’s work; the rightly vaunted chemistry between Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and to a much lesser extent, Justin Bartha, does the rest, leaving the filmmakers with little to do but stick to a winning formula.
Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis return as friends who reunite for Helms’ wedding in Thailand. The trio promises to take things easier following their mishaps in Vegas, but their good intentions lead to a nightmare morning-after following a crazed bachelor party gone awry. They’re left with troubling questions: Where and how did Helms acquire a Mike Tyson-style face tattoo? How did the gang hook up with a cigarette-smoking, dope-dealing, rock ’n’ roll burnout monkey? Most importantly, where is Helms’ preppie brother-in-law-to-be, and why is he apparently separated from his finger?
Like the original, The Hangover Part II takes the form of a backward mystery as the boys—they are unmistakably boys, whatever their age—retrace their steps and try to figure out the path leading to their desperate state. The filmmakers can’t recapture the original’s novelty or freshness, so they up the raunch level considerably; the matter-of-factness of the transsexual and gay-panic jokes is almost progressive. Still, The Hangover Part II is never as edgy as it imagines itself to be. Bangkok may swallow innocents whole, but director Todd Phillips has a lucrative franchise to protect, so the film’s flirtation with the comic abyss gets compromised into something that looks more like a rock-solid mainstream comedy with a prominent dark side.