A film review by Craig J. Koban June 5, 2013


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. 

Misleading 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 shows throughout. 



One 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. 

Predictably, 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 destination.  Unfortunately 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. 

Again, 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.  

THE 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 is…? 

I 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 PART III 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. 

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