Thursday, May 23, 2013


The Hangover Part III is a better movie than The Hangover Part II only because I find time spent in complete and total indifference preferable to stewing in boiling rage. The mean-spiritedness from the 2009 surprise hit comedy The Hangover was successfully, for me at least, swept up in the momentum of its mystery of three guys trying to piece together their drug-and-alcohol decimated memories of the previous night. But by the time the retread of a sequel arrived, the meanness went rancid. That film, in doubling down on the perceived selling points of its predecessor, ended up a putrid pile of hateful jokes that shoot past miscalculated and add up to nothing more than a sad waste of effort for all involved. With Part III, the benefit seems to be that no one involved bothered to write any jokes or try very hard to sell the material. So it has that going for it.

This film brings back the so-called Wolf Pack from the previous two films: stuffy dentist Stu (Ed Helms), aging bro Phil (Bradley Cooper), regular guy Doug (Justin Bartha), and weirdo Alan (Zach Galifianakis). This is a rare film in a series in which most of the lead actors appear to be as tired of it as I am. Maybe I’m just projecting. As it begins, the characters apparently finally learned their lessons from having pretty much the same exact thing happen to them twice. But of course, what kind of sequel would it be if they didn’t get into any trouble? Almost immediately, Alan accidentally decapitates his new pet giraffe, a kind of did-they-just-do-that opening sequence that follows an even earlier sequence of a slow-motion Bangkok prison riot.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Well, the crazy criminal Chow (Ken Jeong), the exasperatingly annoying returning character, has escaped prison and that’s why a growling John Goodman kidnaps the guys en route to a rehab facility. (After all they’ve done, that dead giraffe was rock bottom, apparently.) Snatched up mid-intervention, they’re told to capture Chow and bring him to Goodman or Doug gets a bullet in the head. Hey, at least it’s something new. The weirdly serious turn is, animal cruelty aside, a far tamer effort than either of the two previous movies, with a plot that assumes you’re entering the theater feeling affection or something like it towards these main characters. I could barely care about them long enough to get me through the first film and the second one made me loathe them, so I suppose I was going in with a disadvantage. I just didn’t care what would happen to them, but I could have gotten over that if the film was funny.

I hesitate to knock this film for being largely laughless since most of its 100 minute runtime plays out like a sluggish thriller entirely uninterested in nothing more than a bit of comic relief here and there. Free (purposefully or not) from the toxic cloud of bad jokes that filled up the rerun that was its immediate predecessor, director Todd Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin have inadvertently freed themselves from the comedy designation almost entirely. It’s allegedly a comedy. That’s what the studio has marketed it as. It’s the genre of the films it follows. It’s the category provided by the fine folks at the Internet Movie Database. Some of its lines come out as somewhat comic simply by the nature of Helms, Cooper, and Galifianakis and their reputations as funny guys, even though its best joke, such as it is, comes straight out of Zoolander. (I liked it far better there.) But there’s very little here that’s inherently funny.

Maybe this is a feature length demo reel for Todd Phillips hoping to be hired for an action film next time. After all, there’s a lot of technically adept filmmaking here. There’s a mildly enjoyable heist of a mansion in the hills outside Tijuana that involves creative use of dog collars to maneuver past a security system. There’s a briefly gripping tie-the-sheets-together-to-shimmy-down-the-side-of-a-building scene. The movie’s never better than when one or more of its main characters are right on the edge of potential death, but probably not for the reasons the filmmakers intended. This may be the only comedy that disappoints by leaving too many characters alive at the end. Without laughs or meaningful stakes, this makes for an awfully tired, pointless exercise.

Note: I can’t honestly say what anyone who happens to enjoy the series will make of this odd entry, but something tells me the scene in the middle of the end credits is probably where the die hard fans would’ve preferred the movie to start.

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