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Too much hangs over in new 'Hangover'

The plot and characters are much the same. Gone is the rush you get from the unexpected.

In a scene from "The Hangover, Part II" (from left): Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. This time, Helms’ character, Stu, is the groom.
In a scene from "The Hangover, Part II" (from left): Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. This time, Helms’ character, Stu, is the groom.Read more

For one who overimbibes, the recommended morning-after remedy is a hair of the dog that bit him - just a wee nip.

Rather than just a hair, The Hangover, Part II chugs the whole, furry pooch. All the better, I suppose, to regurgitate every plot turn of the original. Only the setting and the groom have been changed to differentiate this lifeless sequel from the lively 2009 hit. The setting: Thailand; the groom: Stu (Ed Helms).

The arc is identical: Stu, Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) rise from a blackout drunk - not in a Las Vegas suite but a Bangkok flophouse where they begin to piece together what happened the night before.

They wake to find an unusual animal has joined their menagerie. Instead of a growling tiger in the loo, this time there's a mocking Capuchin monkey with a nasty cigarette habit and a stash of contraband drugs.

Oh, and once again Stu's face is somewhat altered: Instead of a missing tooth, he has a new tattoo. What's different is that this is a Three Stooges movie with a passport.

The gang's in Thailand because it's the native country of the lovely bride, Lauren (Jamie Chung), whose dismissive dad (Nirut Sirichanya) finds Stu too underachieving for his successful family. Consider that Lauren's kid brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), 16, is a cello prodigy in the premed program at Stanford.

Teddy joins Stu's bachelor party on the beachfront of a resort hotel, and the morning after, the only trace of the 16-year-old is a severed finger encircled by his school ring. (His brother-in-law-to-be finds it in an ice-filled highball glass in that Bangkok no-tell hotel.) Can Stu, mild-mannered romantic; Phil, tough-talking cynic; and Alan, borderline-personality man-child, find the rest of Teddy and make it to the wedding on time?

From Road Trip to The Hangover to Due Date, director Todd Phillips has served as a cartographer of male passages (and rites of passage). For him, Stu, Phil and Alan represent the three flavors of guy: Stu is vanilla and sweet with a streak of recklessness; Phil is bitter chocolate with a kick; Alan is a double dip of tutti-frutti.

While these characters were amusing the first time around, Phillips and his screenwriters don't bring much new to the party. The first Hangover succeeded precisely because the characters were unfamiliar and unexpected. In the sequel, familiarity is comforting, but it is also the enemy of surprise.

Because in Phillips' Bangkok-and-bull story, almost everybody in Thailand is either a Buddhist monk or a sex worker; the movie gives off the stale odor of cultural stereotyping.

Did I laugh? A handful of times. Did I cringe? For 101 minutes. When Ken Jeong, who reprises his role as the irritating gangster Mr. Chow, appears and flashes his privates, it reminds us that one consonant separates "public" from "pubic."