Title: The Hangover Part III
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha, John Goodman, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Jamie Chung
Who hasn’t woken up with a hangover and said you’re never drinking again only to hit the bar a few days later? That’s fine for us, but Todd Phillips better keep his word. “The Hangover Part III” absolutely must be the end.
The Wolf Pack is back together again, but not for more wedding shenanigans, rather a funeral and a trip to a rehab facility. After Alan (Zach Galifianakis) literally gives his father (Jeffrey Tambor) a fatal heart attack, his mother, sister, and Doug (Justin Bartha) decide that it’s time for Alan to get some serious help. With Phil and Stu’s (Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms) support, they stage an intervention and head out to bring Alan to New Horizons. However, while en route, the Wolfpack is ambushed by Marshall (John Goodman) and his thugs. Marshall takes Doug as collateral while Phil, Stu, and Alan meet his demands – bring him Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong).
Part of the appeal of the original film was the fact that it focused on four real guys in the middle of a very relatable situation. It’s highly unlikely many have had an encounter with Mike Tyson’s tiger or made a quick $80,000 counting cards to pay off a gangster, but the idea of four guys getting so wasted during a bachelor party that they can’t even remember the crazy time they had is charming. But fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Back in 2009, the idea of one friend accidently roofie-ing his buddies was a novel scenario, but the sequel proved the concept didn’t have the appeal and flexibility for another go-around. It seems as though Phillips and co. recognized that issue because we get a different narrative here, but now we’re left with the problem that these characters just aren’t appealing or engaging enough to sustain any feature length scenario.
The biggest problem here is Alan. His unknowingly destructive nature was amusing the first time around, but now not only is it just downright ridiculous that someone could be this dumb, but Alan’s just flat-out mean, too. There’s something slightly comical about Alan being a 40-year-old man living with his parents and bossing his mother around like she’s his personal butler, but it’s also undeniably cruel and turns Alan into a highly unlikable person. Even once his family is out of the equation, that attitude carries over to Alan’s vendetta with Stu. Yet again, someone’s doing the best they possibly can to help Alan, but all Alan does is insult him incessantly. As for Phil, Alan’s little friend crush on him used to be sweet, but now that he isn’t lovable in the least, all it does is make you wonder why Phil puts up with it.
And that opens the door to another major problem; Phil and Stu are underdeveloped, boring characters. Alan is a naïve jerk, but what are they? In this case, they’re merely pawns in the battle between Marshall and Chow. One or the other tells them what to do, they do it, get screwed over, and then align with the other side. All they’re ever doing is carrying out means to an end. No character development and no emotion.
But perhaps Phillips might have gotten away with that if the jokes were funny or if “Part III’s” narrative was the least bit sensible or interesting. Every single gag or comedic set piece either entirely deflates because it’s mean spirited or feels like it’s something that’s being recycled from past installments. Further stripping the film of any momentum is the fact that the storyline is entirely ineffectual. The concept of bringing Alan to a rehab facility works, but why are we supposed to care about a financial dispute between Chow and Marshall? Marshall is a brand new character who never manages to establish any connection with the audience, whether it be through fear or understanding, and Chow is just too erratic to track. The character randomly popping up for a crazy cameo worked in the past, but here, all he does is turn the story on its head and steal attention from the leading trio.
“The Hangover” was just not meant to be a franchise. The scenario was only sustainable for a single feature and without the success of that scenario, the characters completely lose their steam. Even if “Part III” really does mark the end, “Part II” and “III” are so abysmal, it’ll be tough to appreciate the gem of a film that started the whole craze to begin with the same way again. At least we still have “Bridesmaids.”