“The Hangover Part III” is such a joyless, unhappy excuse for a film, it almost defies description. Almost.
The key difference between “III” and the first two installments is that there is never a single moment in the film when the three characters played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis seem happy to be together. In the first two films, there was at least the possibility of a good time at the bachelor party each film begins with. This moment helps illustrate their friendship and gives us a reason to go on these harrowing journeys with them. Yes, things go horribly wrong, but in the beginning, they are happy and excited. In “III”, the reason for their trip is very different and they all seem to dread the very idea of the journey which doesn’t help the film get off to a good start.
In “III”, Alan (Galifianakis) has not been taking his meds leading to even more erratic behavior than in the previous films. When his actions lead to a pretty irresponsible, unsettling event, his family decides to have an intervention and Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) agree to drive Alan to a rehab facility in Arizona. On the way, Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster, has his men run the friends off the road. He takes Doug as a hostage and will return him if the other three find Chow (Ken Jeung), who has just escaped from a Thai prison. Chow stole $20 million in gold bars from the gangster and he wants it back. They hit the road and travel from Arizona to Tijuana before finally ending up back in Vegas. Along the way, they get into dangerous situations, people get hurt and killed, animals die, all in the pursuit of finding the gold and returning it. These situations aren’t inherently funny and even the cast and crew seem to realize this because everything is played straight, leading to a bad impression of an action film.
Seriously, the only person who even seems to be attempting something funny is Galifianakis. He takes the man-child character he always plays to familiar places, places already explored with much more energy and vitality by John Candy, Jim Belushi, Chris Farley and others. This type of humor is, for me, best served in small doses. When the character and behavior are prevalent throughout the entire film, everything in the narrative seems dumb, just dumb, not smart-funny dumb. It is much harder to do smart-funny dumb, which is why we so seldom see it, and why so many comedies are completely forgettable.
Cooper and Helms grimace and frown their way through the entire film. And they have a right to, because they are in one dangerous situation after another. Hopefully, the large sequel-sized paycheck each received made up for this unpleasant experience. But what about our unpleasant experience? Who will pay us? We have to pay to sit and watch this dreck. That seems backward somehow.
I find it hard to believe that director Todd Phillips envisioned these films as a trilogy; when the first one made so much money, the plans for II and III were born. The phenomenal success of the first led to a virtual copycat set in a different country. Now, with the “Epic Conclusion”, he changes the format of the film. Initially, this is a welcome idea – “II” was a hollow retread of the first film – but why make this film at all if you can’t figure out a way to incorporate, in some way, the original idea? Basically, the only connection between the three films is the characters. Everything in this film happens moving forward, so the initial shock of seeing an outrageous moment and then learning about the circumstances leading up to it is gone. I suppose Alan killing a giraffe and the aftermath of this situation is meant to stand in for the bachelor party scene, but it is simply shocking and grimace-inducing. It just isn’t funny.
Phillips is a mixed bag as a director. He’s done some good films (“Old School”, “The Hangover”) but most of his films are jaw-droppingly bad.
The road trip element of the story allows the narrative to return to Vegas and bring back some of the memorable characters from the first film; the boys visit Heather Graham’s character at her new home. Her former hooker is now leading a respectable life with a new husband. The inclusion of this scene is just bizarre. It really isn’t needed which leads to the question “why is it included?” To give all of Heather Graham’s fans another look? Does she even have fans anymore? So the scene is not only unnecessary but boring.
How bad does a movie have to be when even Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny? McCarthy pops up in a cameo. This is the first time I have not laughed at one of her cameos or performances. Her character is simply mean which is supposed to be a mirror image of Alan’s treatment of others, but that doesn’t work either. A mirror image of something that doesn’t work is also something that doesn’t work.
There are a number of incidents involving animals. In each, the animal is drugged, harmed or killed. Is this supposed to be funny? I think it is sort of sad. Everytime an animal pops up, something happens to them. In the other two films, animals make appearances and the level of harm played out on these creatures throughout the series seems gratuitous and out of proportion. Were the animals actually harmed during the filmmaking? No. But depicting these moments as ‘comedy’ just seems wrong. Very wrong.
When the story finally gets to Vegas, the three men regard the opportunity to revisit the iconic city with palpable dread. They eventually learn that Chow is holed up in a penthouse at Caesar’s Palace. Alan refers to the resort as a ‘hell-hole’. When they finally make it to the hotel, there is an extended sequence featuring acrobatics from the penthouse. My question is: Did Las Vegas and Caesar’s Palace partner with the producers to make this film? Neither is painted in a very positive light. If you had your product featured in a film and someone referred to it as a ‘hell-hole’ would you be happy? It might very well seem like an awful place to the characters, but none of this is remotely funny and seems like a stupid waste of time.
And on that note, I don’t want to waste any more of our time on a movie that is essentially a complete waste of time.