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Review: The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover Part III (2013)

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Premise: The final chapter (supposedly) in The Hangover series. The members of the Wolfpack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) must track down Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) for a rival gangster who is holding their friend hostage.

What Works: The original Hangover was a pleasant surprise. As crude as the movie was, it included indelible characters, outrageous comic set pieces, and a lot of gags that worked. Whatever its other problems, The Hangover was very funny. The sequel, however, was a shallow regurgitation of the original film that quite literally repeated every gag and plot twist with none of its predecessor’s charm or novelty. The Hangover Part II was one of the worst movies of 2011 and based on the most recent entry, director Todd Phillips and his cast and crew realized that. The Hangover Part III addresses and corrects many of the problems of the second movie and of the Hangover series as a whole. Among the main problems of previous Hangover films has been the way the movies congratulated its characters for being irresponsible idiots. The new film does not do that. In fact, the title The Hangover doesn’t even apply to the third installment because the action isn’t prompted by a drug-fueled night on the town. Instead, the story premise is based on the sins of the past catching up with our heroes in the present. The Hangover Part III possesses a maturity and perspective that the previous movies lacked, as the members of the Wolfpack generally express regret about their past adventures. In earlier Hangover movies the main characters had moved from Point A to Point A; they started each movie as privileged idiots in trouble and ended the movie as privileged idiots who had gotten away with it. The Hangover Part III is about people attempting to better themselves and do the right thing. The story revolves around Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis, who is being taken to rehab by his friends. Their journey to the clinic is sidetracked but the story is overall one of recovery and responsibility and the movie is at its best when it plays on those themes.

What Doesn’t: The problem with making sequels to The Hangover is that the premise was only good for one movie, as evidenced by the 2011 film. Although the filmmakers seem to have recognized the main problems of Part II, their solutions are not entirely satisfying. The Hangover brand is about drunk shenanigans and to take that out of the movie is to take away the very element that defined the franchise. Having discarded its raison d’être, the filmmakers of The Hangover Part III don’t find anything to replace it with. There is a fair amount done with Zach Galifianakis’s character but the strength of the first Hangover picture was based on the group dynamic of the three men. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are wasted in Part III. Neither of them does much and their characters have no story arc of their own. They only act as escorts and backup to Galifianakis. But the biggest problem of The Hangover Part III is that it just isn’t very funny. There are laughs to be had but they aren’t much more than amused chuckles. There is no comic consistency and nearly all of the best moments were already seen in the trailer. It is as if the filmmakers are as exhausted by this franchise—and maybe by the whole adults-behaving-badly comedy trend that it inspired—as the audience.

Bottom Line: The Hangover Part III brings this series to a whimpering close. It is nice to see the filmmakers try to make good on their mistakes in the previous film but Part III isn’t funny enough to justify a third outing.

Episode: #441 (June 2, 2013)