moviebuff801: The Hangover Part III Review

Posted: May 28, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

“Whenever we get together, bad things happen and people get hurt.”

“Yeah, that’s the point: it’s funny.”

–          Alan to Mr. Chow in The Hangover Part III.

It wouldn’t surprise me if that exchange, which comes late in the comedy threequel The Hangover Part III, was director and co-writer Todd Phillips’ starting-off point in crafting what the advertising has labeled “the epic finale to the trilogy of mayhem and bad decisions.”

This whole trilogy began back in 2009, when a modestly-budgeted comedy called The Hangover took everyone by storm.  Indeed, that film is without a doubt one of the funniest comedies of the last few years and still holds up to this day.  Obviously, it was successful enough to spawn a sequel, aptly named The Hangover Part II, which was nothing more than a lazy, tired and dismal follow-up as well as a near carbon copy of the original.  Now, we have The Hangover Part III, and maybe it was because of my lowered expectations carried over from the second film, or maybe it was because Todd Phillips and co. actually put forth some real effort this time around, but I enjoyed the final outing of The Wolfpack.

Picking up about two years after the previous movie, Part III opens as the lude, crude and rude Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) finalizes his escape from prison.  We then meet up with Alan (Zach Galifinakis), just as he manages to decapitate a giraffe he just bought while transporting it home via the freeway, a scene which the trailers make no apologies for, and thus causes a massive vehicular pile-up.  This is the last straw for Alan’s father (Jeffrey Tambor), but while he’s raging at his son for all the incredibly stupid stuff Alan’s done over the years, he has a fatal heart attack right there in the house.  That causes Alan’s mother to come to the conclusion that her son needs professional help, but as Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are driving Alan to a facility for mental health, they’re run off the road by a band of gangsters who work for a crimelord named Marshall (John Goodman).  In a remote desert location, Marshall informs the guys that Mr. Chow has stolen $21 million in gold bars from him, and he wants The Wolfpack to track him down in order to get his gold back, because he’s aware that Chow and Alan had been communicating while Chow was in prison.  Their mission is to find Chow and deliver him to Marshall, otherwise Marshall will kill Doug, who has been taken hostage, in 48 hours.  Mayhem ensues.

Most likely in response to all the criticisms of Part II, The Hangover Part III touts quite a few changes, the biggest ones being shifts in story setup and overall tone.  This time, there’s no wild night wiped clean from the guys’ memories or a resulting hangover of what-the-fuck proportions (except for a hilarious mid-credits scene late in the game).  For this outing, there are real life-and-death stakes to the story which turn the film into more of a crime caper/thriller than a comedy.  And…I liked that about this movie.  Now, this IS still The Hangover Part III, after all, so there’s a plethora of tension-defusing laughs along the way, but the balance between the two genres here is pretty even for the most part.  I’m not going to beat around the bush, though.  Some will find this unexpected mixture a little off-putting, but personally, I thought it was an interesting approach that mostly paid off, and considering this is the final movie in a series which made its reputation on light-hearted raunch, it’s a risky move.  But I just can’t help but give Todd Phillips credit for taking said risk, and possibly alienating a good portion of the franchise’s core audience in so doing.  Also, this film actually has less-raunchy humor than the first two.

Within the first ten minutes of this movie, its darker humor becomes readily apparent.  As stated in my plot summary, we get a quick prison break sequence, sort of a la The Shawshank Redemption, the beheading of an innocent animal and the sudden on-screen death of a character.  From there, things lighten up just a little bit more, but those first ten minutes will serve as an idea of what is to come.  Now, I don’t condone animal cruelty in the slightest, but I gotta admit, I laughed at the giraffe decapitation.  Yes, it’s a horrible act in real life, but the way Phillips edits and sets up the scene is funny in a pitch-black kind of way, as is the funeral scene for Alan’s father.

This brings me to another point.  If your favorite character in these movies is Alan, then odds are you’re going to be entertained here.  The Hangover Part III is mainly Alan’s story, so he naturally gets most of the spotlight.  I myself love the character and Zach Galifinakis’s portrayal of this special kind of special person, and I thought it was interesting to see him be given something of an arc in this film, rather than just be there to provide all the outrageous laughs.  Galifinakis gives his best work in the series here, as he’s able to rise to the occasion and deliver on what the script asks of him.  Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are still good, too, and the chemistry between these three guys remains intact, which is perhaps the most important thing about these movies.  Seeing this trio frantically run around while trying to stay in control of situations where the odds stack against them at an alarming rate remains a staple of the comedy here, but also lends more tension to the proceedings this time.

As something of a race-against-the-clock thriller, The Hangover Part III works surprisingly well.  For my money, that’s because I’ve come to love these characters so much.  John Goodman’s Marshall has a definite aura of danger about him, which is good.  If he’d decided to ham it up, then that would’ve taken away from everything.  But again, Todd Phillips is always aware of the movie he’s making, so he makes sure to not make things TOO dark.  Then again, sometimes the jokes that come after a few particularly serious scenes do feel awkward, and sort of take away from the moment.  And Christophe Beck’s score seems almost too thriller-ish at times.

But my biggest complaint about this film is Mr. Chow.  Sure, he was a fun side character in the first film, but that’s what he should have stayed.  I just don’t think he’s funny enough to keep bringing back as a major player in the sequels.  He was in the first film just the right amount, proving a little Chow can go a long way.  Unfortunately, though, the writers seem to disagree, and while he may not be as annoying here as he was in Part II, Chow still feels like a forced piece of continuity between these three movies.

My number one judging criteria for movies like these, though, is whether or not they can make me laugh.  The Hangover Part III had me laughing very often and very hard, on quite a few occasions, so I can’t hold any shortcomings against it too much.  Just go in expecting a different movie from the first two, and you should like it just fine.  Is The Hangover Part III as funny as the first film?  No, that was always going to be a challenge, but it IS an improvement over its dismal predecessor, as well as a satisfying send off for The Wolfpack.

***/****

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. Even if it tried to be funny, the movie still wouldn’t have worked. However, it didn’t even try and instead, I was just left with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Thanks. Well, IMO, it DID manage to be funny, and that’s the one thing I want most from movies like these, To each his own, though.

  2. brikhaus says:

    You seem to be the first person I’ve read that actually liked this one! I am not a huge fan of the series, but if this one goes so clearly in another direction, maybe I would like it.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Yeah, I seem to be one of the few, don’t I? Haha. It DEFINITELY goes in a different direction, though, and I found that to work in its favor.

  3. r361n4 says:

    Glad to see someone who at least agrees that this one was better than the last and at least entertaining enough to send the series out on decent note. Your last paragraph pretty much sums it up for me, it really is all about the laughs with a movie like this. Great review

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