Second verse, same as the first – a little bit louder and a little bit worse |

Second verse, same as the first – a little bit louder and a little bit worse

Lisa Miller

As a critic, “Hangover II’s” recycled plot disappoints, but as a fan, seeing the guys back in action constitutes great fun. The first “Hangover’s” $465 million gross guaranteed the sequel. While less inventive than its forebearer, when measured against the sequels and serials that overpopulate our movie universe, “Hangover II” gets a big boost from its ding-a-ling screw-ups, played by Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms.

As in the first film, the wolf pack gathers for the impending nuptials of one of its own. This time its Stu’s (Helms) turn to tie the knot with a babe from Thailand. The buds fly to Bangkok where the sweetness of Stu’s bride-to-be, Lauren (Jamie Chung), is nearly unnoticeable thanks to the emasculating tirades of Stu’s soon-to-be father-in-law.

Since approval for the marriage by this ball-buster already hangs by a thread, Stu’s situation becomes especially dire after a gathering on the beach leaves him and his friends with amnesia, and minus Lauren’s 16-year-old brother Teddy (adorably played by director Ang Lee’s son Mason).

As before, the trio awakens in a motel room, this time a dump where they’ve managed to accumulate tattoos, new hairstyles, a severed finger and a supersmart capuchin monkey exhibiting behavioral oddities.

Galifianakis ran off with the film last time out, and comes close to pulling off the same stunt here. As Alan, a self-descibed “stay-at-home-son,” it’s only logical that he is captivated by the small simian who is a slightly more outrageous version of himself. However, playing Stu the uptight dentist, prone to lose all inhibitions and tap into his dark side while under the influence of illicit narcotics, Helms gives Galifianakis a run for his monkey.

In the role of Phil, their married friend, alpha male and straightman, Bradley Cooper melts into the background, yet benefits from his unspoken yearning that provides a foil for both Stu and Alan. In the story’s early stages, it’s up to an overly domesticated Phil to manufacture much-needed conflict between the guys.

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Once the set-up, punctuated by Alan’s embarrassing faux paus, is complete, the film once again becomes a mystery requiring the guys to retrace their steps and unearth humiliating truths about the previous night. While the occasional revelation is shocking, these are less surprising than the guys’ hi jinks the first time around.

Favorite characters from chapter one, Mike Tyson and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), reappear in this installment while revered comedians Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Tambor, along with director Nick Cassavetes (hitting his mark dead-on), appear in small, pivotal supporting roles. The slapstick is bolstered by a dozen one-line zingers (missing from most current comedies) and characters who remain lovable despite their inanities. As a fan, I enjoyed revisiting this bunch; as a critic, I wish the story had dared trying a fresh approach to its highly approachable characters.