‘Hangover’ sans the hangover? You bet.
Universal Press Syndicate
I have to tell you about some of the things that happen in “The Hangover Part III” to tell you what I think about “The Hangover Part III,” so if you don’t want to know anything other than the title, go away. (But please come back after you’ve seen the film.)
There’s no hangover in “The Hangover Part III,” which isn’t quite as strange as there being no weapons in “Lethal Weapon 3” or no toys in “Toy Story 3”— but it’s quite unexpected nonetheless, especially since “The Hangover Part II” was such a blatant copy of the original mega-hit about a bunch of guys who wake up with the world’s worst collective hangover and have to piece together just what the hell happened the night before.
“The Hangover Part II” was one of the lazier sequels of all time. They just moved the locale from Las Vegas to Bangkok and repeated most of the gags from the original. Even the characters kept saying they couldn’t believe it was happening all over again.
No danger of that happening in “The Hangover Part III.” Perhaps responding to criticism of the sequel or perhaps just wanting to challenge himself, director Todd Phillips has delivered a film so different from the first two, one could even ask if this is supposed to be a comedy.
I’m not saying it’s an unfunny comedy wannabe; I’m saying it plays more like a straightforward, real-world thriller with a few laughs than a hard-R slapstick farce.
You don’t see too many genre-hopping threequels, so, credit to Phillips and his team of co-writers for trying to do something different with the now familiar characters of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Oh, yeah, and the ever-bland Doug (Justin Bartha), who is conveniently removed from the bulk of the action in each film. (That element of the equation remains even here.)
This time around, these guys aren’t reunited for a party. They’re taking Alan to a rehab center in Arizona when their van is run off the road by henchmen working for Marshall (John Goodman), a seriously bad guy who was briefly referenced in the original film. Marshall kidnaps Doug (one pictures Justin Bartha getting the script for a “Hangover” movie and flipping through it to see how long he’ll be around) and says he’ll kill Doug if the boys don’t find the notorious Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who stole $21 million in gold from Marshall.
Why does Marshall think the boys can find Mr. Chow? Because Alan and Mr. Chow have become pen pals while Mr. Chow was in prison in Thailand. Now Mr. Chow is on the loose and only Alan can find him.
We keep waiting for the orgiastic party scene, the celebrity cameo, the cringe-inducing humor, the two-headed hookers, who knows what else, followed by the inevitable waking-up-on-the-floor hangover. And waiting.
There are some big laughs — many of them given away in the trailer — and one terrifically choreographed scene set on the rooftop of Caesars Palace in Vegas, in which the laughter and the tension are ladled out in perfect measures. But most of the time, Phil, Stu, Alan and Mr. Chow are involved in a rough game of cat-and-mouse — and when there’s violence, it’s not usually played for laughs. It’s played for violence.
“The Hangover Part III” also marks the return of Jade (Heather Graham), in a scene contrived mostly to create a reunion between Alan and the baby he once called Carlos. It’s a pretty gooey sequence for a “Hangover” movie, resulting in Phil making another loutish, insensitive remark. (Bradley Cooper’s a big movie star now, and you have to give him credit for not wanting to make Phil more likable. This guy’s really an ass.)
Zach Galifianakis is one of those performers who divide a room. He can be brilliant and incredibly off-putting, sometimes in the same moment. (I think he’s great.) His Alan is by far the most interesting character in the “Hangover” movies; he gets a bulked-up role here, playing a 42-year-old man-child who thinks it’s a good idea to buy a giraffe and believes if a woman likes you, you should drop your pants immediately because that’s how they do it in the porno movies. He’s clearly deranged and in need of help, but you hope when they “fix” him, they don’t change him too much.
That’s pretty much how it goes with “The Hangover Part III.” They went for the big fix, but they might have changed things just a little too much.