As a comedy, The Hangover Part III is a colossal waste of time, a laugh-impaired detriment to the entire genre. As a thriller, it actually works. Let me put it this way, I was never bored by the movie when it was trying to take me on a thrill-ride. Yet, I was nearly rendered comatose when it tried to set up a joke. I actually mean that as praise. Up to this point, critics have been mauling this film with razor sharp fingernails. I’m not going to be one of them. I come either to praise The Hangover Part III nor to bury it. I liked the parts that I liked and I’ll defend it on those grounds.
Walking into the movie, I expected a washout meshed with a retread wrapped inside a movie that I was generally ready to write off as unwatchable. Having seen it, no, I can’t say that. For one thing, it is a true sequel in that tries to build on what has been established. Todd Phillips takes the characters in a different direction by ditching the morning-after formula in favor of playing off that actions of the previous films and dealing with consequences that must be resolved. The Wolfpack created chaos on two continents and now it has come back home. I appreciated that. Yet, my appreciation comes wrapped in a thick layer of unfunny comedy.
First, the bad news. The focus of The Hangover Part III primarily settles on the problems of Alan, played again by Zach Galifianakis who was a bizarre third-wheel in the first two films, a character that I never really found all that funny. He’s such a bizarre doofus that I’m never sure if I’m supposed to be amused by him or afraid of him. He says and does things that no human being on the face of the Earth would do or say without medication and time in a prison cell. Galifianakis is a probably a nice guy but he has a comic persona that I find creepy and off-putting. His character in the first two films was wisely third-string since a little of him goes a long way. Here, he gets a much larger role and that’s a mistake. His antics are more aggravating then funny.
As this movie opens, Alan has stopped taking his medication and has somehow acquired a very cute giraffe that is unceremoniously killed while in his possession. It’s not funny, it’s just quizzical and sad. Returning home, he’s given a talking-to by his very understanding dad (Jeffery Tambor) who immediately drops dead in a scene that I found heartless and cruel. These two scenes really have nothing to do with the rest of the movie. They are bizarre comic set pieces that could have easily been excised from the film.
The good news is that the larger plot is really kind of interesting. It involves The Wolfpack’s re-association with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the mean-spirited Chinese gangster whom they met in the first film when he jumped naked out of the trunk of their car and, in the second film, watched as he was carted off to a Bankok prison as part of a sting operation. As the movie opens, he’s broken out of prison in a scene that, I think, is supposed to be a reference to The Shawshank Redemption. I dunno, as I say, the attempts at comedy don’t really work here.
Meanwhile, on the west coast, The Wolfpack – which again consists of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Jason Bartha) and Alan – is still dealing with Alan who soon becomes the focus of an intervention. The guys want to put him in an institution for his own good, but while driving him there they are ambushed by an angry gangster Mr. Marshall (John Goodman) who was robbed by Mr. Chow of $42,000,000 from a gold heist. Marshall assumes they know Chow’s location because he’s been in correspondence with Alan. And just for insurance, they decide to hold on to Doug. From there the adventure begins, to locate Chow, get the gold and return it to Mr. Marshall.
As an adventure, I’ll say it’s a good one. Having run through the morning-after plot of the first two films, I was glad to see this second-sequel moves in a different direction. I was interested in what was going on. It took turns that I didn’t expect and it held my attention. I was interested in the fact that the movie was bound to be a sequel rather than another boring repeat of the same formula. It seems that I’m alone in that opinion. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just punch drunk from recent sequels that have no energy or aspirations; sequels to Men in Black, Taken, Paranormal Activity, The Bourne movies, Star Trek, Ice Age, Die Hard and Iron Man – sequels that have no ambition to work toward anything but processing a brand name. While it isn’t successful on all counts, The Hangover Part III gives me the feeling that someone was trying. I appreciate that, I really do