THE HANGOVER PART III – The Review
May’s not yet over and we’ve already got another flick in the theatres with the number three in the title. IRON MAN 3 kickstarted the big Summer blockbuster season weeks ago with an astounding box office draw and a general agreement that this superhero action epic was a vast improvement over the lack luster part two. Well, comedies can often stumble in their follow-ups and a third outing can be “back to basics”/apology to the first film’s staunchest fans. This happened with the Grisswold Vacation flicks as CHRISTMAS VACATION was more popular with critics and moviegoers than the tepid EUROPEAN VACATION. More recently OCEAN’S 13 played much better than the bloated OCEAN’S 12 (well, it is a comedy series with lots of action and suspense mixed in). Like the Grisswolds, Danny Ocean and his crew seemed to stumble overseas, so 13 got them back to “Sin City”. And that’s the destination of the “Wolfpack” in the (they’re insisting) final entry in the comedy series, THE HANGOVER PART III. Maybe this will satisfy fans still stinging from the pack’s overseas retread in Bangkok for the generally reviled THE HANGOVER PART II. So can the boys recapture some of that 2009 magic by heading back to that neon-lit dessert playground?
We’re in the middle of a prison riot in Thailand as III begins. During the melee Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) has executed a “Shawshank”-like escape. Back in the states Alan Garner is off his “meds” and is causing one disaster after another. When his latest escapade helps cause his father’s (Jeffrey Tambor) fatal heart attack, Doug (Justin Bartha), Stu (Ed helms), and Phil (Bradley Cooper), along with their spouses, the Garner family, and friends confront Alan in an intervention. Alan agrees to enter an Arizona rehab facility and the guys begin the long desert drive to drop him off there. All’s well till Phil’s vehicle is rammed off the road by a truck. Pig-masked gunmen whisk them away. One of them unmasks to reveal the face of “black” Doug (Mike Epps), Alan’s Vegas drug dealer from Part I. He works for an intimidating crime boss named Marshall (John Goodman). Turns out that Chow has stolen millions of dollars worth of gold bars from a Marshall’s big score. Since Marshall had never heard of Chow till that big party four years ago, he believes that these guys are his only chance to get Chow and his stuff back. Marshall’s men snatch up Doug and give the trio two days to give him Chow or Doug dies. Luckily Alan’s been exchanging emails and texts with the fugitive. Racing to Tijuana and back to Las Vegas, can the guys get it together and return Chow before Doug’s time runs out?
The actors are firmly in sync with their established characters from the previous entries. Cooper is the handsome, level-headed leader. Helms is the panicky, squirmy, pessimistic nerd. And Galifianakis is the off-the-wall, dim, pratfalling wild-card. The main problem is that in the last four years they’ve all shown that their acting skills far exceed the demands of this weak script. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and BEYOND THE PINES proved that Cooper is so much more than a former People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” (and Phil from these flicks). Helms, after CEDAR RAPIDS and JEFF,WHO LIVES AT HOME (and as “boss” Andy Bernard on the recently wrapped “The Office” on NBC-TV), can give us a much more nuanced exasperated milquetoast than Stu requires. And Galifianakis can be more witty and wild, as in DUE DATE and IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (along with his wonderful stints as host of SNL and his internet interview show “Between Two Ferns”) than as the cloying Alan. C’mon writers, do you really think a fella’ who needs medication is funny (then you must have thought SIDE EFFECTs was a laugh riot). The attempts at pathos with Alan land with a loud thud. Now we come to Jeong as Chow. The violent motor-mouth with no impulse control is endearing, eh? Many times he merely comes off as the annoying gangster cousin of SIXTEEN CANDLES’s Long Duk Dong. Jeong is so much better every week (or whenever NBC decides to air it) on “Community”. Goodman has little to do than scream threats and brandish weapons (I doubt 2013 will be as good for him as last year with the double punch of ARGO and FLIGHT). Tambor, Epps, and Heather Graham have brief cameos just to remind viewers of the first film. A small bit by current movie comedy queen Melissa McCarthy as a Vegas pawn shop owner smitten by Alan can’t seem to jumpstart this flick. It’s tough to think of a project that’s a bigger waste of such a wonderfully funny, talented cast.
At least there’s no big wedding at the center of the plot again. But Doug from the first flick is in even greater jeopardy this time (his life is at stake, not just his bride’s wraith). To be honest I skipped the second installment (by all accounts a weak rehash of the first), but I had the same feelings as I felt with the 2009 smash. This is comedy at its most cruel and violent. Mind you I enjoy some nicely staged slapstick. Walk into a door? Funny! Somebody falls down? Same! But in this flick people are brutally murdered as if they were just hit with a cream pie! It makes the taser scene from the first one seem gentle! Chow’s sociopathic behavior is supposed to be cute and zany! He deserves to be in that prison! Indefinitely! I understand that Stu can be a bit of a pill, but he doesn’t deserve the humiliating abuse he’s had to endure during this trilogy. The Vegas location work is quite spectacular and the desert photography is very lovely. But director Todd Phillips just can’t seem to keep the pace going. In many scenes he trains the camera on Galifinakis, hoping that an inspired improv will keep our interest. Maybe he finds this series’ format tiring too. The enormous box office success of the original is a confounding mystery to me, but if that had you in hysterics, then you’ll probably enjoy this final entry. For the rest of us, we can only hope they keep their word when the say that the “wolfpack” have been released into the wild. Now what’s the cure for a “Hangover” hangover?
1.5 Out of 5