Back in the summer of 2009, The Hangover regurgitated the buddy comedy with a dark twist. That film was pure farce and formulaic, but it featured an ensemble cast that worked well together and stuck by its premise. Unfortunately, its 2011 sequel missed the mark. And now here’s The Hangover Part III to put the wolfpack out of its misery.
Once more, Todd Phillips is at the helm and once more the band is back together. But where The Hangover Part II was a limp and unfunny rehash of the first movie, The Hangover Part III is a step in an altogether different direction. Even though this film does pack in some nods to the previous entries, it feels like an entirely different – and entirely dark – animal.
The movie begins with the prison escape of one Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who uses a riot to cover his getaway. The action then swings stateside, where Alan (Zach Galifianakis) loses his father to a heart attack. Doug (Justin Bartha) tells Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) that Alan is off his meds and is in need of some serious help.
After an intervention, the wolfpack sets out to drive Alan to rehab. Naturally, things go awry. The guys find themselves mixed up with the escaped Chow and the gangster (John Goodman) who wants the gold he stole. When it turns out that Alan had been communicating with Chow, the wolfpack becomes very useful for the mob.
If the plot sounds like more crime drama than reckless dude comedy, you’re not alone. The Hangover Part III is indeed a very dark movie, perhaps even darker than the soulless second part of the series. Maybe that’s what Phillips had in mind all along. Or maybe, like Chow says later in the picture, the violence and chaos is supposed to be funny.
Helms and Cooper quite frankly phone it in, so it’s up to Galifianakis and the rest of the cast to pick up the slack. Alan has a far bigger part to play than in the previous pictures, which is a good thing for fans of offbeat, somewhat morose humour. His scenes with Melissa McCarthy’s character are somewhat funny.
But the problem is that the characters audiences related to in The Hangover are pretty far gone by this point. It’s understandable to consider that they may have evolved given what’s happened to them, but this progression is less story-driven than it is talent-driven. Cooper spends the majority of The Hangover Part III wishing he was in a Silver Linings Playbook sequel, methinks.
This casting imbalance means that the audience has to suffer through much larger doses of Chow than they may like. Jeong’s character was the anarchic edge to The Hangover, but he was never the mainstay. He was meant to take in small doses, like a little cocaine on a Vegas trip, but The Hangover III blows him into a full-on star.
That there is no actual “hangover” in this movie should, by now at least, go without saying. All that made the original a deliciously adult delight of debauchery and oh-so-wrongness has long been obliterated in this series, but the remaining crime drama – a proverbial step from the wrong people in Scarface – is just hard to navigate.
Again, most of the blame here is actually tossed back on the cast. Although Phillips’ direction of his and Craig Mazin’s screenplay is as uninspired as most Hollywood buddy comedies, it doesn’t help that Cooper and Helms keep hanging around like they’re so much better than everyone else.
So while expectations may have been low among reasonable people for The Hangover Part III, the series actually does deserve better than this. It initially punched way above its weight class in the middle-aged farce from what seems like ages ago, but now it’s a lumbering, lazy ounce of nothing in a cinematic realm hungry for decent R-rated comedy. What happens in Vegas should, indeed, stay there.