Friday, May 31, 2013

Ending Charmless, The Hangover Part III Resolves The Franchise On A Downbeat.

The Good: The acting is fine, The action elements work.
The Bad: Not at all funny, Characters get substantially dumber than in previous versions, Does not feel fresh or original in any way.
The Basics: With The Hangover Part III, the franchise comes to an unremarkable, unfunny, action-adventure end.

My instinct when The Hangover Part III was released was to suggest that Jeffrey Tambor was having a very good month. After all, with Netflix releasing the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development (reviewed here!) and the cinematic release of The Hangover Part III, Jeffrey Tambor’s star is once more in a prominent position. But, fans burned through the new Arrested Development in hours and Tambor is in, at best, two minutes of The Hangover Part III. In fact, it is the abrupt death of his character, Alan’s father, that sets off the road trip that is the centerpiece of the Hangover franchise adventures.

The Hangover Part III promises viewers it is the end to the story of Phil, Stu, Alan, and (to a much lesser extent) Doug (and a much more significant extent Mr. Chow) that was begun in The Hangover (reviewed here!) and continued in a clunky way with The Hangover Part 2 (reviewed here!). While The Hangover Part III goes to great lengths to try to convince the viewer that The Hangover was the first part in an intended trilogy instead of a runaway summer comedy hit that was then exploited for two mediocre sequels, the relationship between the third film and its predecessors is much more flimsy than fans might want to admit.

First and foremost, in order to make the various conceits of The Hangover Part III work, much of the characterization established in The Hangover had to be thrown out. That is to say that The Hangover was essentially the story of three guys who are roofied, lose a night of their life and spend the subsequent day(s) desperately trying to assemble the clues to piece together what the hell happened to them so they can take responsibility for their actions and recover their lost friend. It’s basically two smart guys and an idiot thrown into a bad situation and acting as detectives in order to find a missing friend . . . with hilarious results. In The Hangover Part III, Phil (especially) and Stu lose most of their innate intelligence in order for their characters to abide by the conceits which allow them to be exploited by the villainous Mr. Chow. In fact, the moment Marshall, who was alluded to in a throwaway line in The Hangover presents the story of gold that was split up and stolen from him, the film heads in painfully obvious directions. If your audience is smarter than the characters and sees the villain’s plan immediately, it undermines the interest one is able to keep in the movie. Sadly, that is exactly what happens with The Hangover Part III.

Opening in Thailand, Mr. Chow makes a daring escape from prison. After killing a giraffe he just bought and causing a nightmare for his father, Alan is reunited with his “wolfpack” for his father’s funeral. Following the funeral, Doug convinces Stu and Phil to help him get Alan to a mental health facility in Arizona. Unfortunately, en route, they are hijacked by Black Doug’s employer, Marshall. Marshall is hunting for Chow, who stole some $21million dollars in gold from him years prior. Marshall keeps Doug as collateral and he tasks Stu, Phil and Alan with finding Mr. Chow. As it happens, Chow recently texted Alan and the trio finds him easily enough.

With Doug’s life in the balance, Chow tells the trio that he needs them to break into his old house to get the gold he stole from Marshall and the three do so . . . until the most obvious double-cross in the world. Set up by Chow, Phil, Alan, and Stu witness Marshall’s brutality and know that he is serious about killing their friend Doug. Tracking Phil’s phone back to Las Vegas, Alan hits on a pawn shop owner and Stu calls in a favor from Jade to track Chow to Caesars. There, the men confront Chow and chase him around Las Vegas with the goal of capturing him and delivering him to Marshall.

There is a noticeable change of tone in The Hangover Part III, certainly as it relates to The Hangover (the truth is The Hangover Part 2 was so forgettable that I cannot make comparisons now, years after its initial release); The Hangover Part III is largely not funny and for most of the film, it does not even try. Instead, this is a remarkably straightforward action movie with the occasional flat-falling joke thrown in. Given how the movie meanders back to Las Vegas and devotes time and attention to the characters getting excited about “Black Doug,” Jade, and the now not-baby “Carlos,” The Hangover Part III stands poorly on its own and instead strives to remind the viewer of the superior film they enjoyed years before. At its best, The Hangover Part III is a series of loosely held together allusions to The Hangover without (until the mid-credits scene) the usual everybody is drugged and wakes up to discover horrible things have happened conceit. Instead, The Hangover Part III is a remarkably straightforward hostage negotiation action adventure movie in many ways. It just happens that the main antagonist is a bit ridiculous.

What is not ridiculous is Marshall, played with usual greatness by John Goodman. Goodman manages to steal the few scenes he is in and add a real sense of menace (albeit somewhat predictable in the reversals he both initiates and is subject to) to The Hangover Part III. Goodman’s Marshall provides the film’s ticking clock and it is far more compelling than simply “man might be late for his own wedding.”

The rest of the acting is fine. Melissa McCarthy’s somewhat understated role as Cassie plays off the more familiar role of Alan well. McCarthy and Zach Galifianakis have decent on-screen chemistry. The others – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Ken Jeong – reprise their roles well, but give the viewer nothing we have not already seen before. And given that The Hangover Part III is supposed to be Alan’s big emotional journey, Galifianakis is a bit underwhelming, but it is hard to blame him for it. After all, it is not Galifianakis’s fault that he does not repeatedly deliver lines about Alan being in mourning for his father. Instead, after the set-up and a casual reference to it in two subsequent scenes, the death of the most important person in Alan’s life has no resonating effect on the character. So, Galifianakis plays the role of Alan as he always has and he manages not to infuse the character with so much growth that we feel like we are watching It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (reviewed here!) again.

Ultimately, The Hangover Part III is an homage to itself and it succeeds in concluding the franchise in a very different, if humorless, way: may it rest in peace.

For other works featuring Melissa McCarthy, please check out my reviews of:
The Heat
Identity Thief
This Is 40
Gilmore Girls
White Oleander
Charlie's Angels


Check out how this movie stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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