The Wolfpack may be back in The Hangover: Part II, but they did not bring all of the energy, uniqueness and absolute hilarity that they had in the first installment. The sequel to one of the greatest comedies in history is not a bad film by any means, but to call it a disappointment would not be a false statement.
The Hangover: Part II brings the entire crew of oddball characters (a major mistake by the creative team) from the first installment to Thailand where Stu (Ed Helms) is going to have his wedding with Lauren (Jamie Chung; Heather Graham as Stu's stripper girlfriend from the original is the only actor that doesn't return for the sequel). The wolfpack (Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) reassembles before the wedding for a quick beer on the beach with Lauren's brother, Teddy (Mason Lee; the director Ang Lee's son). Once again something goes terrible wrong as the wolfpack wakes up in a Bangkok hotel with a smoking monkey, Teddy's severed finger, something mysterious under a blanket and no memory of how they got there.
I have to give credit to the creative team (Todd Phillips is back as director and also writes this one with Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin) for at least having the original intent of making a sequel for creative purposes only (The sequel was green-lit before the first film even reached theaters). Somewhere between the opening of the first installment and the creation of the second, however, someone decided to make this into a lazily written follow-up that would insure a good opening weekend (at the time of this writing it is actually heading for the best opening weekend of the year). Not a single risk was made in the creative process of this film. The screenwriters even go out of the way to include all of the characters (I am looking at the inclusion of Ken Jeong's Chang when talking about this). Some of the plot lines involving these periphery characters become extreaneous. Despite this, the film is filled with almost as many great one-liners as the first and continues to develop the central trio into three of the most iconic characters in recent cinema history.
The thing that really saves this film is the phenomenal acting by the main three. Bradley Cooper has less of a presence in this film compared to the first but he is still the perfect straight man to the other two. Ed Helms is even better than this one than the first. Sequels mean bigger and louder story lines and Helm's larger role leads to even more hilarious shenanigans on his part. Once again Helm has the most diverse role as he sings ("Alan Town" is another hit but not as good as "Stu's Song"), has the main romance (and he has great chemistry with Jamie Chung) and has some dark moments (Helms doesn't fail to make the audience cringe multiple times at some of his antics). Zach Galifianakis is yet again the film's major scene stealer. He's so good at stealing scenes in this one that he will steal them away from the other two while they are talking in the fore front and he is in the background (The best example of this involves a boat anchor). Galifianakis's Alan is also (fortunately) given more screen time as the creators knew what the audience really wanted. I think it is safe to say that Galifianakis's Alan is on the path to be considered one of the great screen characters of all-time.
The rest of the cast is a no show. Ken Jeong's schtick was about to wear thin by the end of the first installment so it was a grave error to bring him back and give him an even larger role. Mason Lee is subpar as the new lost missing friend. He does not have the chemistry Justin Bartha (who is also back in a small role in this one) had with the main three actors. The rest of the cameos and small parts don't really do anything for the film.
Many of the behind-the-scene aspects of the film are exact copies of the original (cinematography and score especially). The editing, of this film, is the only thing about the film that made a deviation from the film. A car chase and and a crazy hallucination by Alan are prime examples of how good the editing really is in this film.
If you are looking for a good (and a very outrageous) time at the movie theater, then The Hangover: Part II is the film for you. If you are looking for a great film or something on par with the first installment, look elsewhere.