Title: The Hangover Part III
Director(s): Todd Phillips
Release Year: 2013
After The Hangover Part II‘s rehash of the first film’s plot elements, there was nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately for The Hangover Part III (or Hangover 3 as I’ll refer to it), “up” doesn’t necessarily mean to the heights of the first entry in the (unnecessary) series. Playing around with the formula a bit while still managing to go back to elements of the first two films so as to tie everything together, the film gives up on being about hangovers and decides to work in some drama and action to its comedic roots. These attempts to be more than just a comedy work to middling degrees, making the movie show how devoid of humor Todd Phillips is, and how Zach Galifianakis can deliver a joke masterfully, when it is not funny on its own.
If you need a recap, The Wolfpack, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Galifianakis), have lived through and recounted two separate traumatic nights of drinking and debauchery, in Las Vegas and Bangkok, respectively. For the third film, Phillips and co-writer, Craig Mazin, have removed even the slightest notion of alcohol and changed up the reasons The Wolfpack need to go on an adventure. This time around, Alan becomes the main character, and after his father’s death, is the subject of an intervention about his behaviour. As The Wolfpack takes Alan to New Horizons, a rehabilitation clinic, the group gets attacked and Doug is taken hostage by Marshall (John Goodman) who demands that The Wolfpack locate and bring Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) to him. While Doug is taken hostage again, and the group has to follow clues to find someone, everything else is relatively fresh for this series. The problem with this is that fresh for the series, doesn’t constitute quality.
Hangover 3 is everything I hate about Todd Phillips wrapped up into one film. He has the same type of humor that Michael Bay has, which is fine for some, but for those who can’t get enjoyment out of phallic jokes, you’re seeing the wrong movie. However, The Hangover was entertaining because it had a premise to which viewers could relate and it worked itself out like a decent mystery film, littered with plenty of jokes and a genius performance from Zach Galifiankis. That’s why Hangover 3 actually isn’t that bad: it puts Galifianakis in the lead role. The movie even goes so far as to give Alan some development as a character, as he reflects on the events of The Hangover and the people with which he surrounds himself. The emotional beats never really work in the film, just as the actual jokes don’t, but Galifianakis delivers every line with the earnestness of a child, which ends up working gloriously most of the time. The best example is when he tells the now-grown-up-baby from the first film, that he is his real father. The Hangover series proves to cling to this talent.
With the third entry of the series, there’s a few more actors thrown into the mix, such as John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy, and also some returning actors like Heather Graham and Mike Epps. But the real stars of the film are The Wolfpack and Ken Jeong, regardless of how simplistic their characters are. Chow was a decent character for the first film, but it all relies on the character being extremely offensive, which may appeal to certain audiences, but low-brow humor like that just makes me cringe more than anything. I can enjoy Ken Jeong in small doses, but here he is hamming it up way too much, and is too much of primary character for the novelty to be appealing. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are fine, but it’s clear even Phillips doesn’t care about their characters and, rightfully so, he keeps the focus on Alan. Though would it really have been so difficult to at least give Phil and Stu a little more depth than what is shown here?
There’s also some action thrown in here, not all of which is bad, and in fact, there are a few scenes which really worked. One of those scenes involves Caesar’s Palace and some classic mistakes from Alan, which amounted to me legitimately being invested in what was happening. The way the scene was shot was exhilarating, and though reactions from the characters were a bit tamer than they should have been, it was a fun scene. Overall though, the action is okay, with very little memorable sequences except the aforementioned one. It wouldn’t be too far off to compare some of the action in here to Phillips’s previous effort, Due Date, where the action was also alright, if not a little less than average. In both films, the mediocre action unfortunately holds the movie back because very little is actually well-done.
Instead, Hangover 3 feels more like a grab bag of flat dramatic beats, generic action scenes, and poorly-written jokes, all carried by a great cast. Props to Phillips for managing to restrain himself until the post-credits stinger from unleashing a barrage of gross-out humor. Any positive feelings I have for the film would have deteriorated with a lot of that kind of humor included. Fortunately, The Hangover 3 manages to avoid doing the lowest of gags (besides someone eating dog food), and that helps it feel fresh in the wake of The Hangover Part II and Phillips’ entire career. Add to that some tweaking to the actual formula of the series, and some well-placed callbacks to the first two films, and The Hangover 3 overcomes its many shortcomings, just enough to be an average comedy that will provide some laughs, even if they aren’t all that memorable.