A broken-down motel and dirty, dingy alleys provide an ominous maze to baffle Phil, Stu and Alan (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) after another wild stag night. This time it's Stu who's getting hitched and it's his bride-to-be's little brother Teddy (Mason Lee) who has vanished, leaving only his severed finger to point them in the right direction. It's a grisly start and it gets a shade darker when Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) pops up from beneath a blanket (in more ways than one) and promptly ODs. But there's also comfort in familiarity with Phillips echoing gags from the first film, swapping a stray tiger for a cheeky monkey who joins the search for Teddy.
Of course monkeys dressed like people (in this case a denim-clad biker) provide only cheap laughs and there are a good few of those. This being Thailand, there's no escaping a sight gag involving a Ladyboy, but Phillips aims to make a virtue of your anticipation. He inspires dread-filled laughter from the awful sense of knowing of what comes next, usually just before upping the grimness of a situation. Occasionally he goes a little too far - like adding the blood splatter of a pig in a car chase with the monkey's drug-dealing owner - but more often than not the wretched and repetitious misfortune of the guys is enough to tickle the ribs and get the odd belly laugh, too.
Again, the obvious comedy relief is provided by Galifianakis who gives a trademark performance in oddball idealism (having set the standard in the first film). It's that innocent, wide-eyed quality - brilliantly played in the transsexual strip club - which means he can draw the line between funny and annoying. Cooper is just as unflappable in his own insouciant way, but he would veer into smugness if it wasn't for the compassion he shows for his childlike friend. Still, it's Helms who is the quiet hero of the piece, bridging the gap between two unlikely buddies and increasing the urgency of a rapidly worsening predicament with a feeling that he might blow at any second.
Phillips is very careful to maintain that three-way balance, only allowing the monkey and a mute Buddhist monk to tag along for any length of time. Paul Giamatti is a brief but welcome addition playing the part of a loudmouthed kingpin who seems to hold the key to Teddy's disappearance. But when it comes to screaming villains, Mr Chow still wears the crown - it's another shrewd move on Phillips's part to bring him back for this instalment. On the flipside, Justin Bartha draws the short straw again as the nice guy who stays back at base in a role more superfluous than his (largely comatose) turn in the original. Though the bolder move would be to mix things up, Phillips acts as the designated driver, holding steady and managing to steer this vehicle safely home.
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