It’s highly likely that director Todd Phillips thinks his Hangover movies are the bees knees. After the breath of fresh air that was the original came the shameless retread of Part II, and now, advertised to the nth degree, comes the clearly unplanned trilogy’s conclusion. Part II showed that Phillips might have a slight pecuniary incentive behind the franchise, by foregoing any sort of change or nuance; it’s odd, then, that Part III is not another tired echo of the tried and tested formula we now know. Rather, it plays out as a sort of heist bro-drama – and not a good one.
Our “wolf-pack”, Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) work with and against Ken Jeong’s insane Chow, the tiny car-boot-springing gangster who dominated the screen in Parts I & II, to rescue perpetually absent fourth member Doug (Justin Bartha). Doug has been kidnapped by John Goodman as Marshall, another mobster, instigating a boring, tension-free plot. At multiple points in the film I was desperate for some form of mad divergence from the predictable path it wove – have Doug die; have Phil sedate Alan and force him into a mental ward; have Chow get deported without ceremony. Bizarrely, the film might even leave one wishing they had just re-used the formula – potentially even involving a character actually having a hangover. This should act as condemnation enough.
The departure in form links to the film’s main failure – it isn’t particularly funny. The second film was of the view that bigger is better, and the more offensive the better, but Part III is actually fairly tame; despite profanity and very occasional nudity, the tone of the film is not raucous enough to justify its marketing. The over-reliance on Alan’s zaniness wears thin, despite Galifianakis’ expertise in the awkward department, while Helms and Cooper have next to nothing to work with. Cooper’s newfound respectability might well have influenced his fade out, but Helms too seems half-hearted. Cameos from the previous films act as thin distractions from whole sections devoid of humour, in which Phillips makes it fairly clear that he wants to direct poor action films, not poor comedies.
There are occasional glimmers of the absurdity expected of the series, but they are too frequently tempered by poor choices. As an example, the giraffe-decapitation featured in the trailers is gratifying in its depiction of a giraffe’s head flying into the windscreen of an oncoming car and causing a freeway pileup; Galifianakis’ understated reaction, too, is amusing. However, the ridiculous cliché of the animal’s “ruh-roh” reaction to the approaching low bridge is distinctly stupid, the level of humour and signposting you’d expect from a children’s film.
The Hangover Part III is overwhelming in how underwhelming it is. It does not function properly as an over the top comedy, nor as the bizarre adventure movie it seems to wish it could be. As you leave the cinema, it inspires a feeling of vague dissatisfaction, but it’s not until you try and fail to relate one of its funny moments to a friend that its failures really manifest themselves. There is no Mike Tyson knock-out here, nor Bradley Cooper getting shot; the characters take neither drink nor substances to excess; instead we get an unsatisfying character arc for Alan, and no progress whatsoever for the rest of the cast. If you’re hankering for another dose of “what did we do last night?” fun, do yourself a favour and watch “Dude, Where’s My Car?” – The Hangover Part III will disappoint you even if you don’t want it to involve a hangover.