Film review: ‘The Hangover Part III’ tries something different

Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis aren't hungover in "The Hangover Part III" Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis aren’t hungover in “The Hangover Part III.”
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

‘The Hangover Part III’
Director: Todd Phillips
Stars: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

The second “Hangover” was the most repetitive sequel since “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Every beat from the original was hit, but with superficial differences: Bangkok instead of Vegas, a monkey instead of a baby, a ladyboy instead of Heather Graham. But there’s no reason that repeating the same joke with variations should be a crime, at least if they only did it twice. They might well have done the same thing a third time, especially since “The Hangover Part III,” which absolutely breaks from formula, plays like weak fan fiction unaccountably directed by and starring those who made the original.

That said, there are stray moments of semi-inspiration. As threatened, this time there is no rohypnol-laced binge session. Our heroes — vaguely douchey Phil (Bradley Cooper), uptight closet transgressive Stu (Ed Helms) and remorseless man-child/possible pedo Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — are simply victims of what we’re told was an elaborate series of events set inextricably in motion during the first movie. (Yeah, right.) It seems that destructive hedonist/Asian stereotype Chong (Ken Jeong) stole from a fearsome mafia type (John Goodman). He assumes that the gang — sorry, Wolfpack — are the best way to find Chong and get payback.

It’s likely the series’ many fans are going to hate this threequel because it isn’t like the others and isn’t very funny. (Neither are the other two, but it’s nice that some people may catch up.) Occasional attempts at deepening the series fail, largely because the writers have tried to humanize the one character who under no circumstances should have been humanized: Galifianakis’ Alan, who ought to have become weirder and scarier, not more fragile and sad.

Honestly, none of the “Hangover” movies are great comedies. But they excel at other genres. At heart, they’re mysteries, and pretty good ones. They’re also incredibly dark. Death, perhaps a violent one, is always around the corner. “Part III” goes darker, even opening with the needless decapitation of a certain animal. Later, actual murder finally enters the franchise. Director Todd Phillips is getting better and better as a visual director of comedy, a genre that tends to treat filmmaking as an afterthought. Jokes are often told through careful framing, not performance, while he carefully allows the tone to sometimes shift to genuine danger. For about two seconds, “Part III” feels like it could end with our heroes dead. If it were actually that kind of movie, there’d be little reason to complain.


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