Friday, January 17, 2014

The Hangover Part III

Directed by Todd Phillips.
2013. Rated R, 100 minutes.

There is a scene in The Hangover Part III in which a bunch of characters wake up from a night of debauchery in a strange place, wondering what they did and how they got there. Sadly, this happens at the end. Before this, you may spend a lot of time thinking you’re watching the wrong movie.

Let me explain.

Right away we know things are going to be different this time around. Instead of starting with a scene such as the one described above, the way the first two installments did, we kick things off with a prison break. It’s Mr. Chow (Jeong) escaping from a Bangkok jail. We quickly transition back to the USA where Alan (Galifianakis) is spiraling completely out of control due to the sudden death of his father. After some convincing, he agrees to enter a treatment facility, provided he is driven there by his buddies in the Wolfpack. Together, they hit the road, but they never make it. They get run off the road by Marshall (Goodman) and his goons, including Black Doug (Epps) from the first movie. Marshall informs them of Chow’s escape and that Chow stole $21 million is gold from him. He then kidnaps their Doug (Bartha) and demands the rest of them find and bring Chow to him. The boys trying to do precisely that ensues.

Rather than another joke-a-minute recap of the night before we get a clunky hybrid crime thriller and dark comedy. Our heroes feel like they are way out of their element. In fact, Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) take a back seat most of the time to whatever is going on with Chow and Alan. Almost none of this is funny. The biggest reason is that these two characters are the least able to support a movie. Truthfully, none of them are which is, in part, what makes the first two movies work. They are a true ensemble effort where each contributes equally to the overall cause. Here, two of them are forced into the lead and wind up exposing their own flatness. This is especially problematic with regards to Chow. We have always been told he is an internationally wanted criminal. This is one of those rare cases where showing instead of telling backfires. When we were only told of his nefarious life, it works okay. When we’re shown this, it fails to hold water. Everything about him is simply too ridiculous.

As a whole, The Hangover Part III feels like an overreaction to criticism of Part II. Conventional wisdom says that its predecessor was too similar to the original. Truth told, it is a carbon copy. As blatant duplications go, however, it’s still a winner in my book. I didn’t laugh quite as often as I did the first time around, but I still laughed an awful lot. At the end of the day, that’s all I really want from my comedies. Sitting through the third installment yielded very few chuckles. I fully understand that comedy is highly subjective. What is funny to me might be deplorable to you, and vice-versa. Therefore, had the humor simply been of a different brand I would better understand the effort. It feels like this movie didn’t really try. It’s as if the powers that be thought that these characters were so great that they could effectively carry any story and stepping away from the franchise’s bread and butter wouldn’t be much of an issue. Turns out they can’t carry any old plot, particularly this one. Fish out of water tales can be wonderful. They usually focus on one fish trying to gain his/her footing in a new environment. In this case, all of the fish are out of water and we just watch them flop around for an hour and a half.

MY SCORE: 3/10 

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  1. I'm all for a trilogy changing itself up for a new, creative direction, but this decision here was just very ill-advised and goes to show you that it's good thing this franchise is all over. Good review Dell.

    1. Yup, this was extremely ill-advised and I am glad it's over. After the second one I was looking forward to this installment. After seeing it, thank goodness there won't be more. Thanks.