"I'm a 44 slim, why don't you bring me down a couple of options."
The Hangover was a funny enough movie when it was released in the Summer of 2009. It certainly wasn't a groundbreaking film by any stretch of the imagination and it finally brought long overdue stardom to Zach Galifianakis, something I couldn't have been more pleased about, but it was a self contained, stand-alone comedy. However, because it was such a huge hit, they decided to build a franchise around it, and that's when things went south in a hurry.
2011's The Hangover Part II was a nightmare of a movie, essentially recreating the plot of the first film in an exotic locale. When trailers began showing up for The Hangover Part III, it seemed like they'd finally broken the mold and tried to do something different, but would it work? Would anyone show up? Does anyone even care anymore? Read on to find out...
The Hangover Part III opens with a large prison break that reintroduces us to a minor character from the first film, Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) and you very quickly realize that he's now going to be the focus of the third film. Even though "The Wolfpack" is going to be the vessel by which the story is told, this film is squarely focused on Chow, and that's likely where things went wrong with this film. As for The Wolfpack, they're having issues with Alan (Galifianakis) whose behavior has gotten out of control, and they want to send him to a rehab facility (not sure what rehab facility is going to cure psychopathic behavior, but hey, we've got to get these guys together right?)
En route to the rehab, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan are run off the road by a Vegas drug kingpin named Marshall (John Goodman). In one of the most convoluted attempts to link this film to the first, we find out that Marshall was robbed by Chow and since the only person who's remained in contact with Chow is Alan, Marshall decides to kidnap Doug and hold him for ransom until The Wolfpack can deliver Chow to him. The trio then sets off on a race against time to find Chow and rescue their plot device, I mean friend, Doug.
First things first, The Hangover Part III has a lot of chuckles and amusing bits, but the most immediate thing that struck me about it is that it is not a comedy. It's got a lot of funny asides and clear improvisations added in to bring some humor to the proceedings, but taken at face value, there's nothing remotely comedic about any of these premises. That is, frankly, a really odd way to wrap up a "trilogy" that started as a zany, over the top comedy. The script felt repurposed from something else, which happens a lot in Hollywood, and because it had a tangential connection to the "three guys hunting for clues" base plot of these films, they rewrote it as a Hangover film.
It's also not particularly well made. Todd Phillips has not grown as a director, I think as a direct result of having made nothing but these types of movies for the last four years, and as a result, the film feels much more like a contractual obligation than a film. There's nothing remarkable about the film, and nary a shred of effort put into making the film itself. The whole thing feels coldly impersonal. That's fine. That can work, but the first film was such a manic and chaotic delight, and this feels like an aging director going through the motions with nothing even remotely approaching the inspired casino scene in the first film set to Wolfmother's "Joker & The Thief."
Unfortunately it's not just Phillips phoning it in. Ed Helms looks like he wants to be anywhere else on planet Earth than on the set of this film. Granted he's not given much to do, but he lets it show in every scene. Now, I may be blinded by the goodwill he built up with me from Silver Linings Playbook, but Bradley Cooper actually seems more engaged than he did previously in this series, and he finally takes the reigns as the de facto leader of this group. His work here is much better than it has any right to be.
Galifianakis gets most of the best lines and sight gags, and his malicious streak is the only thing tying this film to its predecessors. He's always a delight to watch on screen, but I'm happy he can now move on from this role and do something else. Ken Jeong is a nightmare to watch as Chow. He overacts with reckless abandon and most of his hijinks were played out halfway through the second film, but that doesn't stop him from doing everything in his power to steal the show. I'm also sorry to report that Melissa McCarthy, Jeffrey Tambor & John Goodman are all fairly wasted in glorified cameos, given nothing to do other than hint at more well rounded characters this film just didn't have time for.
I'm being a tad harsh on The Hangover Part III. It is infinitely better than Part II, and I likely would have enjoyed it more had this plot been used for Part II instead of Part III. But it's clear that many of the actors, and certainly the director, have grown weary of making these films and are ready to move on to something else now. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon how you look at it, audiences have mostly moved on as well, so there likely won't be another Hangover film. Let's hope that they don't squander this opportunity to finally move on, and they all follow this up with something infinitely better.
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]