The most unlikely trilogy comes to a close where it all began, but it’s still a million miles from home.
A funny thing happened to Todd Phillips on the way to The Hangover Part III. Although he began his successes with the irreverent Road Trip (2000) and the retro fun of Starsky & Hutch (2006), the unlikely hit The Hangover (2009) changed his destiny somewhat. His follow-up film, Due Date (2010), was significantly darker, trading laughs for shadenfreude, a trait that has begun to characterise all of his works since then. As such, The Hangover Part II became an unwieldy retread of the first film, an unabashed piece of fan-service that made a literal monkey out of everyone involved. Yet for all of its faults, the third film can’t be accused of washing, rinsing and repeating. It is an entirely different beast altogether.
Following an unfortunate incident with a giraffe on the freeway, Wolfpack members Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) agree to stage an intervention on the increasingly erratic Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Driving him to a mental health facility, they are run off the road and confronted by Marshall (John Goodman), who has some unfinished business with the croooked Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). With Doug (Justin Bartha) held captive, the Wolfpack must hit the road and find Chow before it’s too late.
The Hangover Part III may be the first film in the series to not actually feature a hangover of any kind. At the very least, the third outing deserves props for trying something different with the series. So much so that it is also the first film in the saga that has dispensed with the need to be ‘outrageously’ funny. Indeed, for much of the film, audiences may be wondering if they’ve mistakenly wandered into a parallel Hangover universe. All the faces are the same, and some well placed cameos and locations from the first film (an ageless Heather Graham, for example) create a semblance of nostalgia that was sorely missing in the second entry. Yet it also seems to be consciously avoiding comedy territory, making a decent enough action caper along the way, albeit one that has little in common with the previous entries.
While the Wolfpack has worked well as an ensemble in the past, the shifting dynamics of the cast signal some occasionally clashing egos. Galifianakis’s Alan has gone from being endearingly ineffective to flat-out toxic. This may be the catalyst for the film, but his presence is now one of perverse frustration rather than comical annoyance. Perhaps the one saving grace is his interplay with Melissa McCarthy, in a small but memorable role. Similarly, Ken Jeong’s Chow was a punchline performer in the first film, literally leaping out of a car boot and into our hearts. His expanded role wears his concept thin, and any love for the character tends to get washed away in a series of increasingly ridiculous stunts. Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper is just cashing the cheques at this point, and Ed Helms (a highlight of the second film) is relegated to a purely perfunctory performance.
The Hangover Part III is a solid conclusion to the series, making up for much of the repetition of the second outing. It just can’t rightly be called a comedy, but that doesn’t mean that a parachute sequence over the Las Vegas strip, a few heists and a sequence with an incredibly creepy child can’t still entertain. By the time the end credits roll, there is something more familiar happening, and this one end-credits scene provides more laughs than most of the film. It’s more caper than comedy, but at least you won’t entirely regret it in the morning.
The Hangover Part III was released in Australia on 23 May 2013 from Roadshow Films.