“The Hangover Part III” is a serious disappointment. I’m not even sure it’s meant to be comedy considering how dark and depressing the material is here. After the spirited debauchery of the previous two films (and I have no problem defending the second which most people hated), director Todd Phillips and company try to do something different instead of giving us the same old thing which is commendable, but what we get instead is a far too serious action movie (and not a very good one at that). What the hell went wrong here?
The movie starts with Alan (Zach Galifianakis) on a downward spiral as he ends up buying a giraffe for no reason other than the fact that he can, and it ends up getting accidentally decapitated while he drives it home. The stress of this crazy incident ends up leading Alan’s father Sid (Jeffrey Tambor) to have a fatal heart attack, and at the funeral it is revealed that Alan has been off of his medication for a long time. This brings the “Wolfpack” of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) back together as they stage an intervention and encourage Alan to go to a rehab facility in Arizona to get help. Alan agrees to go, but only if The Wolfpack will go with him.
But on their drive to Arizona, they are captured and kidnapped by Black Doug (Mike Epps, reprising his role from the first film) and his boss, drug kingpin Marshall (John Goodman). It turns out that Alan’s old friend Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) has stolen $21 million in gold from Marshall, and he wants it back. Chow, at the movie’s start, has just escaped from prison and Alan, against his better judgment, has stayed in touch with him despite all the bad things he put him, Phil and Stu through. As a result, Marshall holds onto Doug and orders the three of them to find Chow and bring him back to him. If they fail to do so, then he will kill Doug. Great setup for a comedy, huh?
The great thing about the two previous “Hangover” movies was that we were every bit as intrigued as the characters were in finding out what happened to them the night before, and we shared in their discoveries with a great, delirious glee. With this third movie, you get the sense that none of them want to be dealing with anymore of the shenanigans they are thrown into, and as a result neither do we. All the fun has pretty much gone out the window and what we’re left with is a dreary road movie that Phillips and his co-writer Craig Mazin were under the mistaken impression they could mine comedy out of.
One major mistake in “The Hangover Part III” is that certain minor characters from the previous films get far too much screen time this time around. This is especially the case with Chow who we first see escaping a dark and grimy prison at the film’s start. In small doses, Chow is a riot to watch and Jeong is a very gifted comedy actor, but this time the character overstays his welcome and quickly becomes an unlikable prick with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. There’s nothing more to Chow than him raising hell, getting high on cocaine and deceiving everyone around him whether they are friend or foe, and he comes across as a needless irritation in this sequel. Just try to laugh when Chow smothers a cocaine-fed rooster to death, I dare you.
Galifianakis also gets more screen time in this one as Alan, and this proves to be another major mistake. As funny as Galifianakis can be when you give him the right material, his shtick as Alan has now worn out its welcome. Even when he has moments of genuine sweetness, they are wrecked by the character’s obliviousness to proper human etiquette. When “The Hangover” first came out, Galifianakis came across as one of the more original comedic actors we had seen in a long time. How sad it is to see his talents squandered in his tepid reprisal of his most famous role to date.
As for Cooper and Helms, they just seem to be going through the motions here as their characters have little in the way of growth or depth. Cooper hit a career high last year with his brilliant performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and Helms has been endlessly hilarious in “The Office,” but “The Hangover Part III” proves to be a big waste of their time and talents, and you get the feeling after a while that they really don’t want to be in this sequel at all.
Was there anything funny going on in “The Hangover Part III” at all? Yeah, there were a few chuckles here and there. Comedic powerhouse Melissa McCarthy shows up in a cameo as pawn shop owner Cassie, and her scenes with Galifianakis succeeded in putting a smile on my face during a movie I found myself mostly frowning at. It’s also great to see Heather Graham back as Jade, Stu’s escort-wife, and it allows Alan to have a sweet reunion with the baby he befriended in the first film. There’s also a post-credits sequence which has the Wolfpack up to no good again, and it makes you believe that Phillips and company would have been better off recycling the same old story for another movie like they did with “The Hangover Part II.”
I saw “The Hangover Part III” at an early morning screening where there were about five or six other people in the audience. I think I heard them laugh once or twice. I shudder to think of what a sold out audience would have sounded like during this movie. For what’s it worth, it is slightly funnier than this year’s “21 & Over,” which coincidentally was written by the same duo who wrote “The Hangover,” but that’s not really much of a compliment. There was a lot of talent involved in making this eagerly awaited sequel, but what we ended up with instead is an epic fail of a comedy.