luke kalamar needs to rehydrate after seeing this one …
Plot: The Wolfpack is back and trouble isn’t far behind. After accidentally decapitating a giraffe and causing a 20-car pileup on a freeway, Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis) is given an intervention by his closest friends and family. The ultimate decision is that Alan is out of control and desperately needs to attend a rehab facility in Arizona. His friends Doug Billings (Justin Bartha), Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Stu Price (Ed Helms) volunteer to take Alan to the clinic. However, a certain criminal mastermind named Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) has broken out of a maximum security prison, and the group is forced to help mob leader Marshall (John Goodman) capture him.
When I first saw The Hangover back in 2009, I was absolutely blown away by how amazing it was. It was easily the funniest movie I had seen in years and that hasn’t changed despite repeated viewings. I was buckling over with laughter from start to finish. Naturally, I got really excited for The Hangover Part II in 2011. Despite as many laughs as the first one, I was a bit disappointed by how similar the second movie was from the first. It was simply the Las Vegas story except in Thailand and much darker in tone. I knew that a third movie was coming out of this and I desperately wanted it to be something different for the Wolfpack. It was for this reason that when I saw the trailers for The Hangover Part III, I was very happy to see that the movie actually looked different. Finally, something we haven’t seen before. I couldn’t wait to watch this newest adventure with a different, less predictable story. It also helped that the trailer looked hilarious. So how does this third installment measure up? Is it able to bring the funny without technically being about piecing together past memories from a wild night out?
Unfortunately, The Hangover Part III actually misses its intended mark and is surprisingly light on side-splitting humor. In fact, the majority of the 100 minute run time is not spent on wild nights and back-to-back debauchery. It’s spent on trying to drug Chow, having people get shot, and wild car chases. There’s actually quite a lot of action in this film, a bit more than you would expect from this comedy trilogy. It also doesn’t help that the clear source of the humor is intended to be Alan, through and through. The events that take place in this movie have a significantly higher rate of severity than the past two, and Alan’s inability to respond to the seriousness of everyone else is frequently the butt of many jokes. So not only was this serious tone a bit out of place for this sort of series, but the obvious focus on Alan as the real funnyman just doesn’t fit. The first two movies were about an entire group of guys making terrible decisions and saying really hilarious things, not one of them. Sure, Galifianakis was the breakout star of the first movie, but making this movie all about him and not the group as a whole works against it.
Then we have the decision to make this movie not about a post-blackout event. I know I’m going to sound really hypocritical by saying this, but I walked out of the theater actually wishing that was what the movie was about. I came to this decision when I finished watching the after credit sequence and realized that I laughed the hardest of the entire film during those last few minutes. This is because the after credit scene was the aftermath of Alan’s wedding to Cassie (Melissa McCarthy) and we discover that his caked was drugged by non-other than Chow. This obviously causes the group to blackout with no recollection of what transpired. All they see waking up is Alan’s house in shambles and Stu with a pair of breast implants. We also have Chow running around naked with a katana. THAT absurdity is what made The Hangover series so funny to begin with and I actually missed it. It also reminded me that I found The Hangover Part II absolutely hilarious, despite the similar plot. It made me realize that when it came to this series, I’d prefer rehashed humor over something completely different.
What really worked well with this film though is the repeated call-backs to previous events to bring everything full circle. Events like Stu having sex with a transgender prostitute in Bangkok, Alan accidentally buying ruffies instead of ecstasy, and Alan stuffing the marshmallows with the right amount of drugs to not kill someone are all referenced in this film. In fact, the infamous incident where Alan bought the drugs from Black Doug (Mike Epps) is revealed to be the reason why all of these horrible events took place. We even saw that scene for the first time! That simple domino effect caused a chain of events that lead to Chow stealing Marshall’s gold and is the reason why the Wolfpack was now in this new predicament. Characters from the first film even come back too, including Black Doug, Jade (Heather Graham), and Jade’s child who Alan named Carlos in The Hangover. Alan’s scene with Jade’s child was one of the best this entire movie as it was both really funny and put Alan into a very brief father-figure role. Mike Tyson didn’t come back however, which was a shame.
There was a whole ton of Chow in this film too, and whether or not that is viewed positively is completely up to the viewer. While Chow was relegated to a more supporting role in the past two films, he took center stage for this installment. I personally really enjoy Chow’s unshackled insanity but I already know several people who found his antics tiring. It’s also clear that a lot of this films humor was intended to come from him as well as Alan. Alan’s inability to view Chow as anything but a friend was funny and the perfect way to bring this madman into the fold. Marshall reading off the letters that Chow and Alan were writing to each other following The Hangover Part II was easily one of the best scenes of this entire film. Alan’s failure to realize that Chow meant Leslie Chow and not “ciao” as in good-bye was hilarious too.
It’s obvious that The Hangover Part III was created with the intent of ending the trilogy and to have the series try something new. However, it turns out that going in a new direction worked against the film and the newer, more serious plot provided the least amount of laughs compared to the rest of the series. I ultimately left the film wishing that I had that same rehashed plot from the second film, which I never expected to ever say. I would’ve actually preferred for the movie to be about the events at Alan’s wedding and having the Wolfpack figure out who drugged Alan’s cake. That would have been hilarious! There were still some funny moments during this film though and the callbacks to the past two films were perfect. If you enjoyed the past two films, this is a must see to wrap up the plot, but be prepared to have a couple less laughs then expected.