Three’s company – I’ve always maintained that moving past a second film to a third is tricky territory, even at a time when sequels are more prevalent like they are now. Throw in the fact it’s a comedy and it gets even trickier. History has told us that, but writer/director Todd Phillips doesn’t care when each of his first two “Hangover” films grossed more than $460 million worldwide. That’s over $1 billion together, so of course he made a third installment. I mean if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, Phillips did the opposite with “The Hangover Part III,” going away from what worked well the first two times leaving him with a film that hardly belongs with its predecessors.
What’s it about? Two years after the events in “The Hangover Part II,” we find an incarcerated Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) in a Bangkok prison. One he manages to escape from due to the perfect distraction, a riot. Meanwhile, we find Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who has been out of control for quite some time after going off his medication. Knowing this, his brother-in-law Doug (Justin Bartha) sets up an intervention and invites Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) over. Alan agrees to go to rehab, so the four friends, dubbed “the Wolfpack,” pile into Phil’s minivan and take off toward Arizona. But, on the way, they get run off the road and captured. Turns out Chow owed a lot of money to a guy named Marshall (John Goodman), who was ready to collect. Realizing Chow had communicated to Alan, he tasked “the Wolfpack” with finding Chow and getting his gold back. With Doug staying back with Marshall as collateral; Alan, Stu and Phil quickly get to work and set up a meeting with Chow in Tijuana, Mexico. Shortly thereafter, Chow and “the wolfpack” were breaking into his old house for the gold, which he hid behind a basement wall when it was being built. But, after retrieving the gold, Chow double-crosses them. Next thing they knew, they were being arrested and then later released, thanks to Marshall. But, that was only the begginng to this twisted story full of unwarranted action and not enough comedy.
Who was in it? Somehow, someway director Todd Phillips was able to get his entire cast back for this film. That’s no small feat considering you have factor in the schedules of five primary actors that probably have agreed to other projects already, post “The Hangover Part II.” But, Phillips did it and I Think had he not, this series couldn’t be called simple that, as it just would have never been the same had any one of these fab five not been involved. That’s a fact you can take to the bank, and really all five were great once again. By now, it’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “how” and I think they all did an admirable job of picking up right where they left off. Especially Zach Galifianakis, who kept his “coming out party” going with another solid performance. This guy is hilarious, no matter the script or film. Sure, he is over the top at times and possibly a different ‘shade’ than what we are normally used to, but that’s a good thing. It’s just so easy to watch this cast work together at this stage of the series, which is why it’s also so frustrating to see such a lackluster script. That easily played a part in not enjoying this cast as much as the previous two films. That’s big when a comedy relies so heavily on the cast and their delivery of the humor. I mean, outside of Galifianakis, no one else stood out at any particular time; at least no one that was part of the previous two films, here getting bested by new additions like John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy.
Phillips versus Phillips – It was bound to happen after watching your two R-Rated comedies earn more than $1 billion in the matter of two years. That’s truly unheard of for this genre and for Todd Phillips, probably more than he could handle. What other excuse could there be for a guy who I view as one of the best in comedies? Sure, he got here fast, after mildly successful films like “Old School” and “Starsky & Hutch,” but he still got here and deserves all the credit no matter how good or bad it might be. And I think Phillips is OK with that given he tends to go for the jugular when given the opportunity. At least, that’s been his style up to this point, which is why I was shocked to not see that same model with “The Hangover Part III.” Nothing felt the same outside the cast. That’s not good and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Phillips changed the format of what worked the first two times. He went against the grain and failed in my mind, which is unfortunate given what he built up to this point. Yeah, overall it was a consistent film, but that’s not a compliment for a comedy. I want a lot of laughs and unexpected humor, but here I managed to only get a handful, which quite simply didn’t cut it.
Bottom Line – Numbers won’t show it, but “The Hangover Part III” will go down as the forgotten piece to this franchise. That’s a shame, for this film had the potential of capping off one of the greatest trilogies to ever come out of the highly competitive comedic genre.
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