The Hangover Part II is absolutely atrocious, but in some ways I'm fonder of it than the mysteriously popular first installment. Thrown together quickly, it has all the same sick, misogynistic, puerile ingredients with none of the laughs to soften the ugliness. You can accept it as a skeazy horror flick about male bonding (and male-bonding movies) and marvel at the artistic bankruptcy and corruption. Who needs good jokes?
The Hangover did have a fine premise, right on the border between farce and horror: Three men on a Vegas bachelor-party trip wake up with no memory of the night before, a fourth man is missing, and there are signs that something bizarre and ghastly has taken place. I've been there. You've been there. But as the mystery was solved the film turned soft and sentimental and lost its danger. That doesn't happen in Part II. The setting is now Bangkok and the vision is darker. The women aren't, uh, quite so user-friendly, at least to these users. There's a severed finger in the men's wretched hotel room. Bloated animal carcasses fly into a windshield splattering gore. Can sex slavers pumping drugs into children and necrophiliacs be far away? They can't be any creepier than Zach Galifianakis, who was unexpectedly tolerable by the end of the last one but is here limited to ever more imbecilic ejaculations. The screamingly effeminate Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is more endearing.
Bradley Cooper is the nominal hero but his range of grimaces is grimly limited. As the three heroes careened around Bangkok searching for the teenage brother (Mason Lee) of Stu's Thai bride, my eyes kept drifting to Ed Helms. He plays Stu as a man so stricken by how low he has sunk that he doesn't appear to know he's in a comedy. He might have drifted in from a night of dismembering women in the latest Hostel picture. Was that what Stu was doing? It would have been more fun than anything in The Hangover Part II.