Hangover Part III, The (United States, 2013)

May 23, 2013
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Hangover Part III, The Poster

The Hangover Part III is an obvious example of how wrong things can go when the almighty dollar is allowed to rule what comes out of Hollywood. When the first Hangover stunned analysts by becoming not just successful but a massive hit, director Todd Phillips was immediately approached about a sequel. He did what most people in his position would do: he took the money and churned out an inferior product that was nearly a carbon copy of the original. Although not as inventive or energetic, it was still funny, and that's the most important quality that can be attributed to a comedy. The Hangover Part II was, therefore, also a box office giant. Therein were planted the seeds that germinated into the giant weed of The Hangover Part III. Phillips, once again lured back by an oversized paycheck, elected to "go in a different direction" this time. Apparently, "a different direction" means eliminating most of the humor in favor of B-grade caper/thriller elements, relegating Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) to supporting roles in the Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) Show, and including action scenes that seem like Mission: Impossible outtakes. The Hangover was high octane fun. The Hangover Part II, despite its repetitive nature, was enjoyable. The Hangover Part III is some kind of hideous experiment in mass consumer torture.

This time, no one's going to a bachelor party. No one wakes up in a strange hotel room surrounded by evidence of a night's debauchery. Instead, the event that brings Phil, Stu, and Alan back together is an intervention being held by Alan's brother-in-law, Doug (Justin Bartha), for the hairy man-child after he decapitates a giraffe and presides over his father's funeral. The four guys hop in a car for a road trip but, before they can reach Arizona, they're kidnapped by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster-type who wants to use their "friendship" with Mr. Chow to locate the crazy Chinese psycho. Apparently, Chow has stolen millions of dollars in gold from Marshall and he wants it back. He holds Doug hostage with the promise to kill him if Phil, Stu, and Alan can't deliver. All this is played with a dour seriousness that encourages us to forget that this is supposed to be a comedy.

In small roles in The Hangover and The Hangover Part II, Ken Jeong was a blast. With his part expanded in The Hangover Part III, he quickly overstays his welcome. This time around, he's not an adjunct to the main storyline; he is the main storyline. The majority of The Hangover Part III involves The Wolfpack chasing him and, when they catch him, joining up with him for one reason or another. Jeong pitches his performance at the level most likely to grate on a viewer's nerves, although he has plenty of competition from Galifianakis, whose socially inept Alan, not necessarily the most likeable guy in the other installments, is nails-on-the-blackboard irritating here. It doesn't take long for us to wish that the giraffe has survived and Alan had lost his head.

For about 100 minutes, The Hangover Part III stumbles and bumbles along, caring less about generating laughs than advancing the lame quasi-thriller subplot that might have been amusing if the tone wasn't so grim. Along the way, a few old friends make appearances (Heather Graham and Mike Epps) but those cameos only stir a deep sense of nostalgia and remind us how much better the first Hangover was. Like Mike Tyson, the elements that made the first two movies "destination comedies" is completely M.I.A.

The Hangover Part III finally hits its stride during the end credits - and that's not intended as a snarky comment. There's a 90-second inter-credit scene that's funnier than anything in the main feature. It can either be seen as a stand-alone gag or, if there's a fourth Hangover, as a teaser for the next movie. After more than an hour and a half of dreary, halfhearted material, that short segment offers a burst of comedic adrenaline, although far too little far too late. The audience loved it, which is more than can be said about everything that precedes it.

It's sad to watch a series that began with so much promise devolve into something so tedious and irrelevant. Movies like this may make money but they devalue their franchises. Look no further than The Matrix for an example. All three chapters were profitable but the existence of the final two, regarded in hindsight as bloated excesses, have hurt the reputation of the first. The Hangover Part III is a testament to why some movies should never get made and, when they are, what the result can end up being.

Hangover Part III, The (United States, 2013)

Run Time: 1:42
U.S. Release Date: 2013-05-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity, Violence, Drugs)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1