Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: The Hangover Part III

When I think of a great movie that was really damaged by the last two legs of its trilogy the first one that comes to mind is The Matrix.  All that was good about that first film (and there was a lot) was compromised and marginalized by the overwrought cinematic trash that followed.  Even now when I catch the original Matrix film in passing, it’s hard to separate that movie from the painful dialogue, the silly plot twists, and the uninspired acting that dominated Reloaded and Revolutions.  Sadly, having watched The Hangover Part III, I can now say the exact same for that franchise.  As good a comedic adventure as the first film was, the second and now the third have ensured that it will no longer be remembered fondly.

Part three of The Hangover trilogy finds the Wolf Pack looking to take Alan to a facility in Arizona to assist him with his own emotional well-being.  Along the way, they get caught in the cross hairs of a Vegas wise guy who is desperate to find Leslie Chow, who has recently escaped from a Bangkok prison.  When the wise guy (played by John Goodman) takes Doug captive (of course), Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are forced to chase down Chow in order to make things right.

Here’s the thing, when you’re making a sequel loaded with beloved characters, you are playing with house money as fans already have a built in affinity for your protagonists.  And that’s what makes it all the more painful when a writer/director like Todd Phillips takes that good will and flushes it down the toilet.  Sure, he had already inflicted a ton of damage to the franchise with The Hangover Part II (a point-by-point copy of the first film sans the fun), but with The Hangover Part III, it’s as if he wanted to pound the proverbial nail into the coffin.  How he chose to bring about such destruction was to make a comedy that is not at all funny.

The quickest analogy I can make to this movie is the series finale of Seinfeld.  Those of you who watched the last episode will remember that far too much time and effort was spent ensuring that every bit player who ever appeared on the show would be paraded across the screen, rather than doing what they did best; setting up jokes and then delivering the laughs.  That represents part of what is wrong with The Hangover Part III.  Far too much time is spent setting up this cameo and that cameo and returning to this location and that.  Sure, it’s a nice cookie for hardcore fans of the franchise (if there are any), but not when it sacrifices screen time that would be better served setting up witty jokes or hilarious sight gags.

The second half of what goes wrong in this film is the same problem that befalls pretty much every comedian/comedic property in Hollywood.  The longer anyone (or anything) funny exists in this industry, the more inevitable it becomes that he/she begins to take himself/herself far too serious.  Part III epitomizes this notion.  The script is dark, the peril real, and the talent in the cast, well some take themselves far too serious and seem to consider themselves above the source material.  And because of this, all that is fun and charming about the first film seems like less than a distant memory.

In regards to the work of the stars, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms seem to be going through the motions in this movie.  Clearly, the film represented a healthy paycheck to the duo and nothing more.  If either actor had a legitimate comedic moment during the film’s two hour running time, then I am hard-pressed to remember it.  On the other hand, Zach Galifianakis to his credit seems to be giving a better effort than his co-stars.  But trying to sell tired jokes and playing the funny man without a legitimate straight man along for the ride (thanks to Cooper’s and Helm’s apathy) is an unbalanced formula which amounts to delivering punch lines without setting up the jokes.

As for the rest of the cast, Justin Bartha remains an under utilized bit player (what else is new); John Goodman does nothing more than show up; and Jamie Chung, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Epps, and Melissa McCarthy show up on screen long enough to register as nothing more than a blip.  Of the supporting cast, Ken Jeong clearly stands out as he is afforded the most screen time and does an admirable job of trying to bring Chow to life from this lifeless script, but by films end even Chow comes off as bland and neutered.

So by now you have probably surmised that I would not recommend this movie.  There’s just so little to appreciate about it, no matter your expectations, that I feel hard-pressed to justify any kind of viewing scenario.  I understand that desire to watch the movie in order to complete the cycle and get “closure” for this trilogy as that was very much my own motivation for heading out to the cinema, but I must warn you that watching this movie is going to greatly devalue your affinity towards the Wolf Pack.  Take a pass on Part III and try and forget Part II.  Maybe then you’ll be able to enjoy the next time you catch The Hangover on TV.

Standout Performance: Based on effort alone, Ken Jeong gets the nod.


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