If there’s no place like home, then how come you can’t go home again? The push and pull of the past, and the awful unfairness of it all, is the theme that runs through “T2 Trainspotting,” Danny Boyle’s sequel to his 1996 youth-culture landmark “Trainspotting,” based on Irvine Welsh’s novel. The new film marks a 20-plus-year reunion for Boyle and his original cast, who play older but barely wiser versions of the heedless heroin addicts who scampered through Scotland to the era-defining sounds of Britpop and electronica. The follow-up is as wistful as the first film was wild, which is another way of saying “T2” feels like a ghost of its former self.
That, of course, is the point of “T2” (also based on a Welsh novel), in which Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his hometown of Edinburgh to find that the town looks different but his friends haven’t changed: Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson remains an incorrigible con artist, Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner) is still a hapless junkie and the likable psychopath Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison, where he belongs. Renton, always the group’s golden boy, is clean and sober but, he admits, also jobless and loveless.
It isn’t long before Renton and Simon are getting high together, reliving their youth and bedding the same girl, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). “I think you two are in love with each other,” she says as they regale her with the history of popular music and soccer. This happily amoral threesome would probably go on forever if Begbie didn’t bust out of jail and come looking to settle an old score with Renton.
Like its hero, “T2” seems aware of its age even as it tries to recapture old glories. Flashbacks to the first film provide striking contrasts between the younger and older actors, but “T2” also restages memorable scenes, replays old songs and re-enacts the overall plot. Only some of this feels intentional. In a poignant way, all these flaws only prove the movie’s point: Nothing’s ever as good the second time around.
Rated: R for sexuality and drug use. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle. Director: Danny Boyle. Running time: 117 minutes. Theater: Edwards 21.