When The Hangover hit screens in 2009, it was a breath of fresh air after Judd Apatow and his consortium took over American comedies. This was no feel-good comedy about people learning lessons, it was about guys doing dumb things they couldn’t remember while in Vegas. It also launched Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper as movie stars. The second film, The Hangover Part II, hit in 2011 and mostly redressed the first film in an even darker context as the boys got into trouble in Bangkok. Thankfully, The Hangover Part III doesn’t remake the first film as it tries to find some odd sense of closure to this series of films. As a result it’s not as slack as the second film, but it’s also just not very funny.
- Director: Todd Phillips
- Writers: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
- Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor
- Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
After an incident with a giraffe, Alan’s father (Tambor) wants Alan (Galifianakis) to change, but the message doesn’t get through. And after another tragic incident, the wolf pack (Cooper, Helms, Bartha) is brought back together to take Alan in for therapy. That plan is ruined when the boys are kidnapped by Marshall (Goodman) and “Black Doug” (Mike Epps) because Leslie Chow (Jeong) stole twenty million dollars of Marshall’s gold and they think Alan knows where Chow is, so Marshall takes Doug (Bartha) to make sure the boys locate Chow. Eventually they find Leslie in Tijuana, and they have to help Chow pull off a heist to get Marshall’s gold… but all roads lead back to Vegas.
- The Plot: Though the second film has its fans, the biggest problem with it was that it took the events of the first film and replicated them to more extreme degrees. Here, though Doug gets taken out of the picture early on again, there are totally different events and stakes. In fact, there’s no hangover until after the narrative is finished. And as this is a reasonably short movie, that means the film keeps hopping along for most of the running time.
- When the Joke Lands: There are some good laughs in here, though they are fewer and further between than in the previous films. Perhaps it’s just that our familiarity with Zach Galifianakis’s comic rhythms at this point are such that he doesn’t surprise as much as he used to. This may be a much funnier film for people haven’t seen the previous movies.
- Slick: Todd Phillips has an eye and is a good director of comic-action set pieces. Though this doesn’t pop like the first film, he’s still an able craftsman.
- Lopsided: In the first two films you could say everyone in the wolf pack had great moments, but in this film the focus is on Alan and Chow — who is in many ways the star of the film as when he’s not on screen, he’s often talked about — which puts its comic ringers front and center. Cooper’s Phil at this point just finds Alan amusing, while Helms’s Stu is left with nothing to do but get drugs for the gang. It’s interesting that neither of the film’s co-stars put much effort into this entry, perhaps they just were happy to cash their checks and get it over with, but the crazies have taken over the narrative, which means they’re not bouncing off of normalcy so much as their own insanity. When Alan meets McCarthy’s Cassie, you can tell this is supposed to be a big set piece moment, but it just feels labored and obvious at this point. And there’s no great comic energy in seeing McCarthy do a Galifianakis riff.
- Get ‘er Done: Alan meets a girl, and finds some peace. That seems to be the narrative they settled on, and it’s fine enough, but with three movies released over four years, there’s a sense that this movie was made because of the paychecks that everyone would get. But it’s understandable in that the first film made nearly $500 Million and the second made over a half a billion worldwide. More people saw the weaker second film in theaters, so the third film was going to happen. The Hangover Part III has been selling that this is the final chapter, and that’s a good thing. There was no more story to tell (arguably there wasn’t after the first film), and there’s not much here except fond memories of the first film, and some moments from the performers. Both follow ups are cash-in sequels. Is this better or worse than the second chapter? Maybe this one is a little easier to sit through, but it’s the first film that’s memorable. This is not.
After The Hangover Part II it’s hard to get up in arms that Part III doesn’t live up to the first film. Perhaps the best that could be hoped for is a modestly amusing time-waster. That’s what they delivered, that’s for sure.
The Hangover Part III is in theaters now.