This will sound like a strange way to open a film review, but I didn’t completely HATE The Hangover (2009). It had a half-clever concept (even if it was borrowed from a film called Dude, Where’s My Car?), a colorful cast, and a solid handful of honest laughs sprinkled around the place. Hardly a classic, but not bad for a silly sex farce. And then it blew the hell up. I’m not exactly sure why, but The Hangover was a massive hit the likes of which any studio would kill to claim as their own. So obviously we were due for a few sequels. Fine.
The Hangover Part 2 (2011) was absolutely terrible. What began as an aggressively rude yet still likable concept was quickly recycled into a sadly mercenary piece of paint-by-numbers, no-effort-required, gimme my damn paycheck franchise filmmaking. But of course The Hangover Part 2 also blew the hell up at the box office. So here we are again. The Hangover Part 3.
Let’s cut right to the chase: this thing exists only due to contractual obligations and the ever-present need for MORE FREE MONEY. This is not a movie that was built from someone’s clever idea and then produced for people to laugh with. It’s a free vacation to Tijuana and Las Vegas for some very rich men who have no real interest in being there outside of the fiscal ones. You can practically see leading man Bradley Cooper yearning for each “cut!” so he can get through this trainwreck, collect his check, and move on to other projects that an Oscar nominee might enjoy. (Bradley Cooper is a charming and talented actor; he still does virtually nothing of interest in this entire trilogy.)
As for Ed Helms, who is one of the most naturally gifted comedians I’ve seen in years, his material here is so flat and listless that one starts to feel angry on behalf of the actor. Give Ed Helms ten seconds and a camera and he makes people laugh every week! How could such a funny man be so woefully misused in the third chapter of an allegedly “hilarious!” franchise?
(Short answer: because nobody cared.)
As for Zach Galifianakis, another guy who has comedy talent leaking from his pores, he’s back being extremely weird at the most illogical of moments — and it’s just not all that funny anymore. His tics and mannerisms and clipped speech and odd word choices are sometimes amusing, because he’s a good comedian, but they don’t really add up to a “character” — just like Hangover 3 doesn’t add up to much of a “movie.” It’s selfish people being mean and stupid with just a dash of pathetically false “emotion” tossed in at the end.
To its mild credit, Hangover 3 does not simply copy the plot(s) from the first two chapters. There’s actually no “hangover” at all; this maddeningly lethargic plot sees “the fourth guy” (aka Justin Bartha) being kidnapped by a murderous kingpin and the only way the (dear lord) “Wolf Pack” can save the day is by tracking down a guy called “Chow.” And this leads to the worst problem in a film absolutely riddled with problems.
In The Hangover, Ken Jeong popped up a few times and added a truly bizarre spark of energy. Since the fans responded to a supporting character who was used well, the producers of the sequel simply gave him more screen time. This might be a good way to sell tickets, but “supporting characters” are often great because they’re “supporting” characters. Now that we’re mired in The Hangover Part 3, Ken Jeong is in every other scene, keening and whining and talking in a horribly annoying voice. Frankly he makes the second half of the movie interminable. What was once amusing for a few moments has now become an anchor.
So how do truly funny people like Helms, Galifianakis, and Jeong get hung out to dry on such a witless affair? The blame must lie at the feet of co-writer / producer / director Todd Phillips. The man must be a comedy vacuum to suck all the humor out of a cast like this. In its place he tosses animal cruelty, shock value ugliness, lots of nasty shouting that (for some reason) is meant to be hilarious by default, and (worst of all) a series of “action” scenes that demolish comedy and suspense at the same time. (The big finale atop a Vegas casino is woefully amateurish stuff.) There’s no pacing or energy or pleasure in the comedy moments. The gags are delivered like we’re Pavlovian dogs desperate for any morsel of wit. Worse yet, The Hangover Part 3 seems to think it’s actually some sort of heist thriller, which only makes it duller!
Bottom line: some movies are bad because mistakes were made or something didn’t work as planned. Other movies are bad because nobody “above the line” gave a flying shit about anything but claiming a strategic weekend, filling a trailer, and getting asses into the seats on opening weekend. The lack of effort and complete dearth of creativity found here strikes me as an affront to the fans. It’s like saying “we know this is a smash so who cares if it sucks?” Like clockwork, moviegoers are punished for making one movie a big hit, and I know I’m not the only one who gives a crap.
Fortunately for all involved, this franchise is over. Part 3 is just one last cash-grab. Try not falling for it this time.
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