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Hangover 2

The Wolf Pack is Back

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

In 2009, The Hangover hit theaters like a comedic freight train from hell, generating nearly $300 million at the box office ó the largest gross ever for an R-rated comedy. By and large, critics embraced this inventive comedy that explored surprisingly virgin territory in the form of a bachelor party in Las Vegas gone terribly, terribly wrong. A sequel was pretty much a given as you canít hold the wolf pack (and the possibility of another $300 million) at bay forever.

In Hangover 2, we have a virtually identical setup, but in a new setting. Specifically, the wolf pack is running loose in Bangkok. This time around, Stu (Ed Helms) is heading to the altar to marry the striking Lauren (Jamie Chung) in Thailand. Stuís fellow members of the wolfpack grudgingly tag along despite the fact that the bachelor celebration this time around entails brunch at IHOP prior to boarding the plane.

Not surprisingly, a casual beer by the bonfire at a beach in Thailand a couple nights beforehand unravels into a night of violence, debauchery, and chaos. Indeed, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble. Upon awakening in a hotel that should have been razed in the 1960s, Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianikas) are horrified to discover the brideís brother (who recently joined the wolf pack) is missing.

While much in the Hangover 2 is the same as the first film, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The awkward and bizarre humor of Zach Galifianikas is still good for a multitude of laughs. Alan is by the far the funniest member of the wolf pack. You canít help but love a character that shamelessly characterizes his occupation as a ďstay at home son.Ē

Also along for the ride again is Mr.Chow (Ken Jeong), who provided some stellar comedy in the first Hangover and once again provides no shortage of great moments running amok in Bangkok. The film actually could have used a bit more of Mr. Chow in the middle portion of the film when the pacing began to lag a bit.

The absence of Chow shortly after the film begins is partly to blame for this lag as he helped get things started with a bang in the squalid hotel room the wolf pack woke up in after the ill-fated beer at the beach. With Chow out of the picture, Galifianikas is left to carry the comedic load largely by himself. Unfortunately, director Todd Phillips doesnít play as much to Galifianikasí strengths during this challenging stretch.

Ed Helms is solid as the stressed out, overwrought Stu, but he doesnít bring the laughs like Galifianikas. Stu effectively peaks in The Hangover 2 when he discovers he had a dalliance with a woman who isnít all she appears to be. Bradley Cooper is a straight man along with Justin Bartha as Doug, who has more screen time the second time around with less impact. Jeffrey Tamborís inclusion in the film is smart, but largely a wasted opportunity that doesnít net anything.

The Hangover 2 will get slammed by a litany of critics for effectively using the exact same blueprint the second time around. This criticism is valid, but you canít really fault Todd Phillips and his team for going down this path. It worked quite well the first time around.

There is much that is predictable in this second outing, but that doesnít mean the film isnít funny and the question of exactly how the wolf pack will get their friend back this time is compelling enough. Itís not as good as the first one, but itís better than most comedies released this year.