Monday, July 8, 2013

The Hangover Part III - 2013

"The Hangover Part III" - 2013
Dir. by Todd Phillips - 1 hr. 40 min.

Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

So, there was a third installment, and I finally went to go see it.  "The Hangover Part III" is supposed to be the final film in the series, and as an end-piece, it's not too bad.  It's easily the least of the three films, and runs contrary to the appeal of the first two, but if you need a feel-good ending for these characters, this is as good as you're going to get.

At this point, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has gone off of his meds once again, to the peril of a giraffe and his father.  A decision is made: Alan needs an intervention (although for what is unclear, as it's his unwillingness to take his prescriptions that's the problem).  Once again, the Wolfpack must reluctantly reform in order to get Alan to New Horizons.  But they are violently waylaid en route by a gangster, Marshall (John Goodman), due to their association with Chow (Ken Jeong).  Doug (Justin Bartha) is held hostage until Alan, Stu (Ed Helms), and Phil (Bradley Cooper) can track down Chow and deliver him to Marshall.

This time around, the basic structure that worked in the first two installments is set aside (a sort of high-stakes game of where is he?).  Instead of the Wolfpack trying to solve a mystery out of friendship and suffering dire consequences in that pursuit, this film is about the actively doing bad things to get Doug free from Marshall, and getting thwarted by the slippery Chow.  The inversion of these characters' motivation doesn't exactly work; instead of seeing people suffer because they're compelled to act in service of their friend's best interests, it becomes difficult to root for any of the characters.  It's no longer a matter of a misunderstanding, or seemingly benign actions escalating into something criminal, it's just guys being coerced into acting as proxies for a gangster.  On some level, a comedy needs to provide someone for the audience to root for - bad things happening to people who deserve it isn't comedy, but vengeance.

The other aspect that doesn't work as well this time around is that the settings don't provide the same sense of menace that Vegas and Bangkok did previously.  Even the return to Vegas here doesn't feel ominous, even though Stu dreads it.  Tijuana, as a setting, provides plenty of opportunities for things to go awry, but the worst that happens is that the Wolfpack has to watch Chow karaoke Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt."  So the visit south of the border feels like a missed opportunity to revisit the travelogue horror shows of the previous two films, which might be the most unique aspect of those films.

Despite those two problems, it's still a pretty funny film.  Chow has a much bigger role here, and it actually works.  I thought the story could have made hanging with Chow much more perilous, but I still enjoyed seeing more of the character.  Cooper, Galifianakis, and Helms all do what you'd expect they will, and I'm always happy to see John Goodman in anything (especially when he's swearing up a storm).  This film wraps things up with a bow (which is promptly untied in a post-credits scene, promising the basis for another installment that I'd still go see, if only this wasn't the last of the series), which isn't strictly necessary.  Nonetheless, if you've gotten through the first two "Hangover" films without walking out, you're probably going to want to see the third, and it's thankfully not a complete letdown.  It does, however, indicate that a fourth film almost surely would be.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre

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