The Hangover was a damn good movie. It combined dark comedy, crude humor, and a noir-ish mystery plot into one of the more innovative mainstream comedies of the past two decades. I still like that movie. Then The Hangover Part II came out, and that was just a shallow retread of the original. Now four years after the original flick made waves, The Hangover Part III hits theaters. It breaks with the formula of the first two movies, but the filmmakers neglected to include much in the way of actual jokes or gags.
If you haven’t seen The Hangover, then all you need to know is that this series follows three overgrown children who have a tendency to get wasted and cause mayhem and destruction. The first flick found The Wolf Pack, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Stu (Ed Helms), recovering from a nasty hangover in Las Vegas after being drugged. Highlights of their escapades included hijacking a police patrol car, kidnapping a Korean gangster (Ken Jeong), and stealing a Bengal tiger from Mike Tyson. The Hangover worked because the cast was largely unknown at the time, and no previous comedy had really adopted the dark undertones of a noir. The three hapless protagonists in this franchise were compelled to retrace their steps in order to save their missing friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), and that kept the plot compelling even when some of the jokes fell flat.
This time around, Todd Phillips dispenses with the previous format and goes for a straightforward approach. As the film begins, we learn that Alan has gone off his meds. He buys a giraffe, which is promptly decapitated by a low hanging bridge when he drags the animal out onto the highway for a joyride. When Alan’s father (Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor) learns of what happened, he upbraids his 42 year old, stay-at-home-son and then promptly dies of a heart attack.
Shortly thereafter, the gang decides to drive Alan to rehab to help him get his life sorted out. Of course, nothing ever works out for these guys, and on the way they’re ambushed by a drug dealing gangster (John Goodman). The gangster kidnaps Doug and tells the other three that he wants them to bring him Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong reprising his role from the previous two movies) or else he’ll kill Doug.
The resulting attempt to locate Chow results in the Wolf Pack traveling to Tijuana and then Las Vegas before this sad, sordid tale is over. Despite the movie’s title, no one suffers a hangover this time around. There’s no abuse of elicit substances, and our three heroes don’t really get into any particularly nasty predicaments. They’re stone cold sober for the duration of the flick, and the plot exclusively centers on the crew attempting to nab Chow in order to get their friend back.
And that’s the problem with this movie: There isn’t much in the way of either mayhem or comedy. It’s great that the filmmakers broke with the format of having Phil, Alan, and Stu getting drugged and committing acts of debauchery. However, the filmmakers didn’t replace the old format with anything new or interesting. The characters aren’t given anything to do. Additionally, the personalities and quirks of these guys are all really familiar now. We’ve seen this cast play these roles out for two movies at this point, and everything they do just feels perfunctory.
The plot involves a couple of detours involving the gang attempting to locate some stolen gold, but it all feels pretty half-assed. One gets the impression that Todd Phillips attempted to break with the format of the original by creating his own comedic version of Ocean’s Eleven. However, the plot isn’t compelling enough, the comedy isn’t dark enough, and anything in the way of actual jokes are few and far between.
The Hangover Part III feels rushed. It’s as if the filmmakers were compelled to make another sequel in a short amount of time because the previous two movies did well at the box office. The result is a lethargic, boring movie. It doesn’t work as a heist flick, and it doesn’t work as a comedy. All of the good will generated by this first flick has been drained from this franchise. I’m not opposed to seeing Todd Phillips and this cast team up again for another comedy, but I, for one, hope the Wolf Pack never returns.