'The Hangover: Part II' review: Similar yet different in all the right ways

*** (out of four)

What, like you’ve never made the same mistake twice? In Thailand for uptight Stu’s (Ed Helms) wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung, who’s part Korean, not Thai), charismatic Phil (Bradley Cooper), insecure savant Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu again get black-out wasted and spend the remaining pre-wedding hours piecing together their night while searching for someone they lost (Lauren’s 16-year-old brother).

The buzz: I know, I know, I’m an idiot for not liking the slow, misogynistic first “Hangover,” which lazily relied on gags involving tasers and old men’s butts. Arriving in theaters despite Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist’s lawsuit taking issue with the unlicensed, Tyson-esque tattoo on Stu’s face, “Part II” comes from different writers who hopefully have crafted a better non-Vegas sequel than “Ocean’s Twelve.”

The verdict: Now this is male bonding through f’d-up adversity, compared to what previously felt like acquaintances drunkenly coming to terms with their own simmering anger. In the stranger, funnier “Part II,” the mystery of what the devil happened last night actually leads to wild places, and the so-called “wolf pack” blends together more effectively as the characters progress beyond bland identities as “the cool one” or “the weird one.” Racial insensitivity has been toned down (though not eliminated), and the film’s indifference toward female characters is at least a step up from the original’s hatred of them. Replacing the first movie’s cynicism with more jokes and some of Stu’s moral compass, “Part II” becomes a ridiculous, often hilarious demonstration of what mostly upstanding people are capable of when the safety is switched off.

Did you know? When Stu claims he wants brunch at IHOP to count as his bachelor party, Phil insists that bachelor parties shouldn’t include cantaloupe. Everyone knows that honeydew is the badass of the melon community.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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