The chances of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms) missing a wedding again due to a night of drug-induced partying is about as good as the parents in the Home Alone series ditching their kid a second time.

Oh, right.

Well, credit then for writer/director Todd Phillips for turning this sequel around in record time and at least acknowledging the idiocy of it all. It does everything it can to remain sensible about the situation, now in Thailand, short of looking at the camera and winking at the audience.

Given the time crunch to produce this follow-up after the mega-blockbuster and mega-quotable original, Hangover II doesn’t come out quite as scarred as you’d expect. Setting this in the streets of Bangkok allows the mysterious night to open itself to wider reaching antics, much of it with a darker, harsher tone that doesn’t quite fit. For all that the trio endured prior, the flurry of gunfire, near death experiences, and dumping bodies into ice boxes is taking all of this to a new level.

At the core, the framing is the same; it’s unavoidable. The film opens on a flash-forward, reconnects down the line, and ends up with a friend turning up right back where they started. Note that it’s not the roof; they check that one off pretty quick.

All of their nightly experiences pay off as they undress the seedy underbelly of the city, lost and confused but knowledgeable as to where they should be looking. These guys should be opening up a private detective business. What’s key though is the writing, still snappy and not just sold by scenarios that send Stu into a tizzy (Bangkok strippers aren’t what they say they are). Alan is just as goofy, and Phil is still the most level headed, even after being shot.

Hangover II tries the growing cliché of ending on a song to spice things up, trying to convince the audience they had a good time. Even if it does something surprising with it, no excuses. It’s a lame way to end a film that is clearly going to keep people laughing through the credit images. Cameos supersede the art, and by art, that’s referencing some pristine cinematography. Thailand looks great even when the transsexual strippers are flaunting it. Err, wait… [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Warner is all over the place as usual with their encodes, Hangover II pushed out as an improvement from the first, not the messy, filtered mess that one was. That’s not to say it’s problem free, the grain structure regularly spiking and turning digital, sparking scenes of chroma noise or dancing dots syndrome. The latter sounds way more fun than it is.

If nothing else, the movie would look different enough by default, flesh tones and scenery scorched by intense oranges that give people an impossible tan. Contrast is bursting from the heavy sun, so maybe that explains, partially at least, the brutality simmering their flesh. There’s a business meeting of sorts late in a high class hotel that finally breaks the trend, a relief to show that some form of neutral skin tones exist.

Black levels dig deep, taking care of shadow detail where they can. Preservation proves crucial to managing the depth, this sequel leaping off the screen with a glossier, showier appearance. Apparently when the budget doubles, so does the ability to tinker during the digital intermediate, and the specific look is apparent from the first frames.

What sells the whole thing is definition though, low bitrates be damned. Close-ups dazzle with an array of pore-specific spectacle (?), and the exteriors of both jungles and cities dazzle with their crispness. Focal effects are more damaging than anything the compression does, an early dinner rehearsal sending softness to Hangover levels, bridging the two movies eternally. How cute. Still, those ill-looking shots are counted on one hand, the rest designed to look more expensive and impressive. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

This is a wild DTS-HD mix, fitted with a hip-hop score that slaughters the low-end with aggressive and bombastic bass that produces a jarring room shaking effect. Inside clubs, just for fun, or in flashbacks, the subwoofer will ignite and set that party atmosphere.

It’s not just music, Hangover II presented with numerous action scenes meant to equally push the sub into submission. A car chase, complete with gunfire and crunching metal, is outstanding as it tears through every level of audio. There’s a helicopter rotor that is gloriously punchy as well, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

Surrounds are never forgotten, inserted into the mix with care and balance to preserve a natural soundfield, not just to impress. Much is the same as with the bass, chases and gunfire zipping around to precise locations. Even subtle moments are captured, the airport crowded with the audio presenting it a such. There’s plenty of fun to go around on this track, and the mix is right in tune with what needs to be done. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Why are there so few bonuses? Double dipping of course! As with the first Hangover, Warner will almost certainly milk this sequel in the same way down the line, while for now, you’re stuck with whatever is here. A faux-documentary tells the behind-the-scenes story on what went down in Thailand during the shoot, ramping up in insanity as it goes along. It’s the longest thing here at 25-minutes.

A section labeled behind-the-story is split into three sections, barely breaking 12-minutes combined, going through the motions with familiar behind-the-scenes featurettes. A gag reel isn’t quite as funny as you’d think although still worth a laugh, while an action mash-up remains the cheapest way to add a “bonus.” It is less than a minutes worth of footage encapsulating all of the action of the movie. How not thrilling. BD-Live and Ultraviolet support is here too. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

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