A film review by Craig J. Koban June 5, 2013
THE HANGOVER PART III
2013, R, 100 mins.
2013, R, 100 mins.
Bradley Cooper as Phil / Zach Galifianakis as Alan / Ed Helms as Stu / Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow / Heather Graham as Jade
Directed by Todd Phillips / Written by Craig Mazin and Phillips
It’s kind of funny, but for a film that has the word “hangover” in its title, there’s a curious and head-scratching lack of anyone suffering from an actual hangover all throughout THE HANGOVER PART III. Go figure.
This is Todd Phillips’ third – and hopefully
last – of THE
HANGOVER films, of which the first two, yes, contained storylines of a
trio of characters suffering from the morning-after effects of a party night of
all out debauchery and alcohol/drug intake to end all party nights.
Obviously, I can understand that, from a marketing perspective,
there was a need to call this third film THE HANGOVER PART III, but since
it absconds way from the hangover formula of its predecessors, a wiser film
title might just as well have been THE WOLFPACK RETURNS.
titles aside, THE HANGOVER PART III scores a few points over its prequel
in the sense that it doesn't commit the same unpardonable sins of it.
2011’s THE HANGOVER PART II was just a pathetically lazy retread
of 2009’s initial HANGOVER comedic adventure; it was hard not to be
wholeheartedly disappointed by it. THE
HANGOVER PART II essentially remade the first film, characters and situations
intact, only making minor tweaks here and there as far as geography
(substituting in Bangkok for Las Vegas).
If anything, this third film scores some points at least for
not egregiously going back to the creative well; it diverges from the
series’ story conventions and tries to do something fresh.
Alas, its attempts to be “novel” and “unique” (this go
around, the film is a chase caper comedy), THE HANGOVER PART III seems to
– God forgive me for saying this – play things safely. Instead of trying to
attain the gloriously lurid and tawdry heights of comic mischief of the
first film, this possible series ender seems to just be going through the
motions. There is just an odor
of uninspired tediousness that this film gives off…and it really
thing is for sure: this new film has a great opening scene.
Two years after Bangkok, Leslie Chow (the broken-English talking,
cocaine and whore addicted Chinese mobster, played in a performance of
affectionate caricature by the funny Ken Jeong) escapes – via a
well-staged riot - a maximum-security prison in a sequence that has sly
echoes of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. While
this is occurring, the “Wolfpack” – comprised of Phil (Bradley
Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and perpetual man-child ignoramus, Alan (Zach
Galifianakis) – have been brought together yet again by the inanely
preposterous actions of Alan. This
time, Alan has managed somehow to purchase a giraffe and accidentally
decapitates it while towing it behind his car on the freeway.
This scene is not nearly as funny as it should be, seeing as
giraffes, I am assuming, are smart enough creatures to duck when an
overpass comes their way…but never mind.
Alan’s brother, Doug (Justin Bartha, the sad odd-man-out and reduced to
a series side character) decides that enough is enough and
wishes to stage an intervention to send Alan to a special hospital in Arizona
to help people with his…shall we say…special needs.
Despite Alan's initial reluctance (actually, he has a manic
outburst of crying), he begrudgingly decides to go, so the Wolfpack comes
back together and heads on a special road trip to take Alan to his
for them, bad things always manage to happen to the four hapless men every
time they are together; along the way their car is intercepted by a
gangster named Marshall (a regrettably wasted John Goodman), who decides
to hold Doug as a prisoner, only to be released if the remaining trio does
one thing: find Chow, re-befriend him, and then gain his trust to help
find a bunch of gold that he stole from Marshall.
Mild zaniness and not much lunacy or laughs then ensue for the
remainder of the picture.
I can certainly appreciate that Phillips this go-around has opted to forgo
the hangover-heavy/amnesia plotting and instead tries something different
with THE HANGOVER PART III. Alas,
even though he diverges away from the first two films’ narratives,
nothing really compelling or comically daring is substituted in as a
replacement for it. The tired
and routine formulas of PART II have, ironically enough, given way to a
whole new set of formulas and conventions in PART III.
When it boils right down to it, this third film is just a tired and
rather flavorless caper thriller that seems to be desperately trying to
inject laughs into the material (there are times when the film could
hardly be described as a comedy at all).
The film has some nice call backs and references to the original
HANGOVER – and it even includes a return trip to the "City That Never
Sleeps" - but too much of the time I felt like the characters – who
were kind of crudely original and invigorating in 2009 – now seem to be just
props at the service of a witless and preordained script.
HANGOVER PART III makes one mistake in trying to hand over the majority of
screen time and plot to Alan and Chow,
seeing as both characters are side-splitting in small dosages here and
there and are borderline like fingernails-on-a-chalkboard when given too
much screen attention. Chow is,
ultimately, a buffoon, but he’s nonetheless a violence prone and
sadistically unhinged a-hole that's really hard to love.
As for Alan, he’s so psychologically impaired and creepily
anti-social in some instances that it’s a major miracle that he has not
be in a straight jacket in an insane asylum by this point in the series.
THE HANGOVER PART III really struggles at generating a plausible
reason why Stu and Phil would ever – and I do mean ever – want to
associate with this mentally sick individual.
One of the saps even sheepishly states, “We’re are
stuck with Alan and are gonna spend the rest of our lives looking after
him.” And the reason being
laughed a few times during the film.
The opening prison break has a capricious madness about it, not to
mention that Ed Helms is a truly gifted screen comedian for generating
just the right stupefied reaction to all of the madness that surrounds
him. There’s a nice little
subplot that pays off later that involves Alan finding love-at-first
sight with an equally reprehensible pawnshop worker (Melissa McCarthy)
that both share a love of verbally berating the woman’s scooter riding
elderly mother. Cooper, on
the other hand, has become a finer dramatic actor in the original
HANGOVER’s wake and now comes off less as a performer that truly wants
to inhabit Phil and more as one that’s contractually
obligated for a film like this. Actually, contractual obligation and the aspiration of a huge
box office take seems like the only rationale reasons for THE HANGOVER
to truly exist. Those hoping
for this threequel to recapture the engagingly tasteless extremes and
lightning-in-a-bottle comic magnetism of the first film will unavoidably
be disappointed with the results here.
This Wolfpack misadventure – if you excuse the giraffe
indiscretion - seriously lacks edge and bite.