New plot in third film doesn’t cure “Hangover” headache
Successful hangover remedies have been debated and tested for years. Everything from coffee to Alka-Seltzer is said to speed up recovery from a long night of hitting the bottle. When it comes to remedying the “Hangover” movie franchise, director and writer Todd Phillips thought ditching the pre-wedding fiascos for a new plot could close the trilogy with a bang. It’s an upgrade from the embarrassment of “Part II,” but a middling one at best.
Straying from the post-bachelor party shenanigans of the first two films, “The Hangover Part III” opens on a much more serious note: staging an intervention for Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Having been off his meds for six months, Alan’s stupidity has reached new levels. His family and friends are concerned (especially about the massacre of a giraffe in the opening five minutes), so Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) agree to take him to a rehab facility. On the way, they are overtaken by drug lord Marshall (John Goodman), who also felt the effects of the drug mix-up from the first movie. Thanks to the damage the Wolfpack caused in Vegas, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) ended up stealing $21 million worth of Marshall’s gold. Now, Phil, Stu and Alan need to find the recently-escaped convict Chow and bring him to Marshall before he kills hostage Doug.
It sets up a surprisingly less comical and more intense journey for the Wolfpack. Action hero stunts, break-in operations and several point-blank shootings make “action adventure” a better genre for the film than just “comedy.” But in either category, the film comes out as simply average. The plot isn’t terribly inventive, although it’s certainly an improvement from “Part II,” which was literally an exact replica of the first plot with a minor change in location. It allows for some action sequences, but few that make you sit on the edge of your seat.
Perhaps the most surprising letdown was the quality and quantity of jokes. The script by Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin is so concerned with highlighting the suspense of the chase for Chow that it fails to provide the level of humor from the first film. The quips that do make it in the film aren’t particularly memorable either. I would provide an example, but like I said, not that memorable.
The performances are rather forgettable as well. Even Goodman doesn’t add that much substance, save that he gives Bartha an excuse to be absent for most of the film, an unfortunate characteristic of the trilogy (for Bartha, at least). The only exception would be from Galifianakis, who can convincingly make the audience sympathize with a mental case. He can be counted on for guaranteed laughs, especially during a pretty saucy encounter with pawnshop cashier Cassie (Melissa McCarthy).
Aside from the improbable and maddening misadventures, “Hangover Part III” is partially a coming-of-age story for Alan, albeit a pretty messed up one. It gets pushed to the side as a side plot, since the plot mainly revolves around Chow, but Alan’s growth throughout the 100-minute film is still noticeable and strangely sentimental. It gives a satisfying conclusion to the series, but it can’t make up for the lack of originality and humor that made the first installment so popular.
What the film is successful at is playing up fan-favorite references from the previous films. The scars (physical and psychological) from the mishaps in Thailand are still fresh, and the Wolfpack is eventually sent to fetch Chow from Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. They may be a bit wiser and warier of Sin City, but Phil, Stu and Alan still know how to work the town.
And for those missing the crazy “morning after” madness from the first two films, don’t leave once the credits start rolling.
Stars: **1/2 (out of five)