If ever there was a series of films that should never have developed further than the first it’s this, and yet here we are with The Hangover Part lll.
The 2009 original was no great comedy, but it had a good idea with endless comic potential. Four guys waking up from a stag night binge in Las Vegas and having no clue as to what they did the night before is a funny idea. Admittedly, the end result was sloppy and occasionally crass, but it was crammed with good moments and a few fun characters that audiences seemed to warm to, not to mention that it became one of the most successful ‘R’ rated comedies ever, so a sequel was inevitable.
The second in 2011 was basically the same film – at least, the formula was the same – with just the setting changed; Bangkok became the new Las Vegas. Now it’s the third and, so we’re told, the final episode, and it appears that number three takes place not in some new exotic location but in a laugh-free zone.
After the retread that was number two, director/writer Todd Phillips was heavily criticized for not trying. Simply rebuilding the first, practically brick by brick, didn’t go down well with everyone, and Phillips obviously took some of the beatings to heart. In outing number three there is no stag night to celebrate, no wedding to attend, and – wait for it – not even a hangover to suffer; the formula is gone. Instead we catch up with the same three guys on their way to Arizona to help the imbecilic Alan (Zach Galifianakis) get back on his meds, or something like that.
There are all kinds of reasons as to why we get see several of the characters from the first film again and why the setting leaps from Bangkok, to Tijuana (actually, Nogales, AZ filling in for Tijuana) to eventually back to where it all began, Las Vegas, but there’s no point in retreading the plot here; just know that this convoluted mess brings together most characters from the first film and way too much of Ken Jeong’s annoying Mr. Chow. When it comes to Chow, a little goes a long way, and sadly, in number three, he’s in most of the film.
The biggest problem is that The Hangover Part lll isn’t particularly funny. Director Phillips appears so intent on making the final episode somewhat different from the previous two that he’s actually succeeded in making it part of a different genre. With car chases, gun play, fights, dead bodies and even a heist, Phillips has delivered all the elements that make a thriller with a couple of idiots at its center. John Goodman is the bad guy heavy, a man whose life was disrupted by an event that occurred in Part 1, and now he’s out to make things right. By the deadpan way he plays the part, Goodman actually seems to be in a different film. He’s a real villain. The humor, what there is of it, comes from the reaction of the four guys thrust into this nightmare world. If only they’d been given funny things to say or do instead of dodging bullets.
The three relatively stable members of the Wolfpack, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and the third guy whose name no one ever remembers, take a back seat to Mr. Chow and the deadpan humor of Galifianakis, a comic actor whose style is an acquired taste at best.
Melissa McCarthy has a cameo that is surprisingly mean spirited – the insult to her hungry, elderly mother is not funny – though admittedly simply seeing her for a few minutes livens the proceedings a little. The biggest mistake is having Heather Graham turn up and giving her nothing to do. Despite the billing, her actual screen time must be less than a couple of minutes. The stripper character and how she was used in the first film was a genuine highlight, so knowing she was returning for this conclusion raised all kinds of expectations, but nothing happens.
I can understand director Phillips wanting to end his creation on a somewhat different note, but by ignoring everything in the principle structure that made The Hangover popular in the first place he’s produced a disaster. The Hangover Part lll is dreadful.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 100 Minutes Overall Rating: 3 (out of 10)