The Hangover Part III Review
Posted by Jeremy Wilson on 05.25.2013
The Wolfpack is back together for one last adventure, this time heading to Tijuana and back to Vegas...where it all started. Is it an improvement over the last film? 411's Jeremy Wilson checks in with his full review.
Directed by: Todd Phillips Written by: Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin Based on characters created by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Phil: Bradley Cooper Stu: Ed Helms Alan: Zach Galifianakis Doug: Justin Bartha Mr. Chow: Ken Jeong Marshall: John Goodman Cassie: Melissa McCarthy Jade: Heather Graham Black Doug: Mike Epps Sid Garner: Jeffrey Tambor
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity . Running Time: 100 minutes
You and I are being punished, America.
If it failed to sink in a couple of years ago with the first sequel to the incredibly popular and widely liked R-rated comedy The Hangover, there's little doubt now. We liked a summer movie to a surprising degree and made it a monster hit. As a result, Hollywood – doing what they like to do best – is punishing us by rubbing our noses in a franchise with insanely gigantic diminishing returns. Everything you may have once liked about The Hangover – the weird, off-kilter group dynamic, the “piecing booze and drug-fueled events together the next morning” structure, the zany, raunchy antics, Mike Tyson's tiger...is almost all gone. In its place is a group of “friends” who don't even appear to like each other going through the motions of an even darker story that plays more like a wannabe action and heist thriller, rather than the raunchy comedy we all liked so much at the start of this franchise.
While writing this review of The Hangover Part III, I happened to go back and read my review of this group's previous effort, the ever-so-creatively titled The Hangover Part II. I strongly disliked that film, but ended up giving it a 5.0. In hindsight, that may have been kind. In fact, I was slightly surprised to read that I had laughed a few times in Part II, since I honestly can't remember anything funny from that movie two years on. However, if I perhaps was a little easy on Hangover Part II, there will be no such leniency on this third installment of the hit comedy franchise. This time around, I don't even have to couch any criticisms of the film by even mentioning the number of times I laughed. That's because this time, The Hangover Part III isn't even a comedy. It's not even that it's just bereft of laughs, that it throws a lot at the wall to see what sticks and comes up relatively empty. Honestly, this time, it doesn't even try for laughs.
Even more ironic is that my primary criticism regarding The Hangover Part II – unlike so many other critics and fans who didn't like that movie – wasn't its cut-and-paste lifting of the story and structure (although I did criticize it). No, the main things I didn't like about the last film, have essentially become the central focus of The Hangover Part III: an even darker tone and story that center around what were hideous supporting characters Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Chow (Ken Jeong) and a “humor” that is mean, racist, homophobic and just overall cruel. It's as if Todd Phillips and company intentionally went about constructing the worst, most unfunny and pathetic Hangover movie I could envision in my head, and now are sitting back laughing and making snow angels in all the money these movies have and will continue to rake in through the years.
The fault for this obviously lies at the feet of a number of individuals; chief among them Hangover helmer, co-writer and professional Hollywood hack Todd Phillips. Apparently listening to the complaints from critics and fans over the second film's almost mirror-like narrative and bevy of copied antics, Phillips and fellow screenwriter Craig Mazin have excised “the hangover” altogether (it's almost always a bad sign when a movie's title doesn't make sense in regards to what's actually in the movie). This time, Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) agree to accompany Alan to a treatment facility for the latter's obvious mental problems. This is ultimately precipitated, not by anything the group has done together previously, but by Alan being off his meds and buying a giraffe, who is then decapitated by a freeway overpass (you may have seen this in the trailer). An intervention is arranged featuring all of Alan's “friends” and “The Wolfpack” reunites to get Alan help. Unfortunately, as what always happens when this group gets together, nothing goes according to plan.
The group is ridden off the road by thugs working for Marshall (John Goodman) who is looking for Chow, who has stolen over $20 million in gold from the gangster. The film actually begins with something of a slow-mo prologue as we see Chow escape from a Thai prison. Marshall takes Doug as collateral (of course he does), compelling the remaining three friends to get him Chow.This necessitates a trip to Tijuana, where Chow eventually asks for help from the group to steal the gold he's buried in his former house. Of course, this being a Hangover film, nothing goes according to plan and the group eventually must head back to Las Vegas to save their friend and finish what was accidentally put into motion four years ago on their first visit to Sin City.
There are numerous problems with The Hangover Part III and thousands of words could likely be written on all of them. To start with, your appreciation and enjoyment for this movie will ultimately hinge on how you feel about Alan and Chow. Phil and Stu are basically just props at this point, incredibly adding almost nothing between them to what's going on. To that end, has there ever been as vanilla, paper-thin leading character in a comedy or franchise than Cooper's Phil? That borders on criminal since we know that Ed Helms can be hilarious and Bradley Cooper has broken out as a major movie star (and Oscar nominee) in the four years between the first film and this one. Jeffrey Tambor, one of the funniest comedic actors alive, is killed off early on, while John Goodman is given one funny thing to say, drowned in the mostly glowering role as the film's “heavy.”
Women have never really been included in The Hangover series shenanigans, but this time it actually feels forced. The guys' wives are spotted early in the film making small talk and Alan's sister organizes the intervention for her brother, but they're dispensed with quickly. They got Heather Graham back for a cameo and promptly give her nothing to do (once a whore, always a whore apparently). They bring on one of the biggest female comedic stars of the past two decades (Melissa McCarthy) as a romantic interest for Alan...and do nothing (you've seen almost all of her screen time in the trailer). In fact, that relationship angle isn't mined for laughs as much as it is needed to inject a Happy Madison-esque nauseating “happy ending,” complete with fake sentimentality and the dropping of consequences and issues found in the meat of these movies. This has obviously happened in the previous two installments (it did really bother me at the end of The Hangover Part II), but this feels even more forced, as Phillips gives us one “last” slow-mo Wolf Pack group shot, calling back to all three entries.
Which brings me to Alan and Chow. The humor in The Hangover Part III doesn't actually involve jokes, as much as it does sociopathic characters acting weird and gross. So when Alan does his hybrid retarded-sociopathic man-child routine and says rude stuff, you're supposed to laugh. When Chow speaks in that effeminate, obnoxious, wannabe gangsta accent, you're supposed to laugh. When Alan and Cassie (McCarthy) are rude to her wheelchair-bound mother and awkwardly share a lollipop, you're supposed to laugh. When Chow acts like a dog, sniffs Stu's butt and eats dog food, you're supposed to laugh. When Alan has headphones on and is oblivious to his father's fatal heart attack (which he helped cause), you're supposed to laugh (I guess). When Chow is parachuting away from Caesar's Palace and flying above Vegas shouting “Bitches,” you're supposed to laugh (I guess). There aren't punchlines, because this “humor” depends on the performers' charisma and ability to turn lemons into lemonade. Galifianakis and Jeong can be funny – we've seen this in other efforts. However, The Hangover Part III once again proves how important writing is to good comedy and why this franchise has deteriorated to the point we see it now. It also underscore why outlandish supporting characters with the character traits of these two aren't great anchors for a film, especially one focused less on humor than on making an uninteresting action-oriented movie.
Neither of these last two Hangover sequels have been produced because they're based on a good idea or a really great script. They've been produced – quickly, sloppily and lazily – to make as much money as quickly as possible. The zany, raunchy, fun of the first has morphed into a mirthless, dark, depressing, unfunny slog, with a group of individuals who long since should have left each other behind. Todd Phillips and company believe that killing animals, the “quirks” of sociopaths and mocking everyone who isn't a straight white male (again, reminiscent of a Happy Madison production) is funny. I'm not sure what Phillips has against animals, but I haven't seen this much explicit or inferred cruelty towards them in a mainstream “comedy” in...I don't know how long. In addition to the decapitated giraffe, there are coked-up roosters (one of whom is smothered in a rape-y manner) and dogs who are first knocked out with drugs and then have their necks snapped. Funny, funny stuff!
The movie's tagline states: “It all ends tonight.”
Can it please? I mean, can we get that in writing, on some sort of binding contract? Because with this franchise's history of diminishing returns, one shudders to think how far it will fall with a fourth lifeless, humorless and soulless entry. The only rational thing that can be taken from The Hangover Part III is this:
It's time to sober up.
The 411: The Hangover Part III is a mirthless, dark, depressing, unfunny slog, with a group of individuals who long since should have left each other behind. Todd Phillips and company believe that killing animals, the “quirks” of sociopaths and mocking everyone who isn't a straight white male is funny and the zany, weird, raunchy humor of the first film is nowhere to be found. Director and co-writer Todd Phillips confirms he is indeed a corporate Hollywood hack, as he whorishly phones in another sequel, almost abandoning comedy altogether in order to shoot second-rate action sequences while ditching the actual “hangover” for a weak heist setup. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are relegated to standing props and neither look thrilled to be there, while Melissa McCarthy, John Goodman and Jeffrey Tambor are mostly wasted. Ultimately, how you feel about this movie will depend on your feelings of Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong, who have gone from weird, small-doses supporting characters to this film's aggrevating sociopathic stars. There are no punchlines, because there are no jokes. The humor is mostly derived from these two's sociopathic traits and overall weird grossness. If that's good enough for you, then have at it. For the rest of us, it's a sad statement that so many great smaller comedies have to fight for resources and exposure, while this $100 million pile of excrement gets released on Memorial Day weekend and undeservedly features a cast with some of the funniest people working today. Not Recommended.