Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong , John Goodman, Justin Bartha
I think it is fair to say that the first film in The Hangover series took alot of people by surprise. Probably one of the best R-rated comedies in recent memory, the film went on to gross $467million dollars off of a $35million budget. Naturally that led to a sequel, which despite the mixed critical reviews, posted equally impressive box office returns.
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Todd Phillips and Warner Bros decided to visit the cash cow one last time as the Wolfpack return for the third, and it’s fair to say, final time. But how does it match up to the first two?
To quote The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent once said “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. These are words that Phillips and co. should have perhaps heeded when considering making this last film.
Now I should explain I am a HUGE fan of the first film. I saw it twice in the cinema, which is a rare event for me, and when it was released on DVD, I hastily bought it and watched it on a weekly basis for a couple of months. It consumed me, and with each viewing I found myself laughing at something different, or noticing a gag I had missed previously. Sure the humour panders to a low brow audience, but at the same time it is rich with smart one-liners, brilliant performances from the leads and a selection of amusing side characters.
The second film is a little bit of a mystery to me. I loved watching it the first time around, and actually thought it was nearly as good as the original. On second viewing, however, I didn’t feel the same kind of love, my laughing seemed forced and as such I am scared to revisit it again. But I still hold it in fairly high regard as it is better than most R-rated comedies of late.
Part III……is not a good film. By any stretch. It is perhaps an ‘Ok’ film, and whilst for some that may be praise, for the final chapter in the biggest comedy franchise of our time, it just simply isn’t good enough.
Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis all do well enough in their roles, although the spark that held them together through the first two films seems to have dimmed somewhat. Their relationship in the first film was tested by Alan’s behaviour, but they had the common goal of finding Doug. A similar dynamic was played out in the second film, albeit the shock value was less as the audience knew what to expect, but you still had two straight men (comically speaking) battling against an anarchic man-child.
I have no real issues with the performances here, my biggest issue is with how the characters of Alan (Galifianakis) and Mr Chow (Jeong) are handled.
In the first film, both of them are used sparingly. Alan has some immaculate lines (“Is this the real Caesars Palace? Did Caesar live here?”) and Ken Jeong’s cameo as the sexually confused gangster is one of the highlights. It works, because it breaks up the story and provides an extra bit of comic relief, providing “WTF did he just say?” moments.
Of course, due to the positive feedback these two characters received, there was increased screen time for both in Part II, and whilst it felt forced, it still kinda worked.
Unfortunately, for Part III, rather than keep these two as impact characters, Phillips decides to build a story around them, which ultimately damages the ensemble/bromance dynamic we have seen in the first two film. No longer can they be used to great effect by saying/doing something completely unrelated to the actions of the straight men, now they are the main story, with Helms/Cooper having to keep up with them, rather than Jeong/Galifianakis dragging them down. As such, the gags don’t work half as well as they did, because they aren’t bouncing off of straight faced characters.
Where Part III also goes wrong is that Phillips attempts to change the formula. One of the criticisms levelled at the first sequel is that it closely followed the first film too much. I myself did not see this as a problem. The film/series is called The Hangover, and if you tamper with the story too much then it doesn’t make sense. Part III involves no hangover, and whilst there is still an element of the guys trying to uncover a mystery, without the “What did we do last night?” it loses the mystique. We now see the three chasing Chow to Mexico and the Vegas, trying to track some gold that he stole from a gangster.
The gangster in question, Marshall, is played by John Goodman, who is vastly underused, and by far the best thing to come out of this film (and perhaps every film?). Whilst it is his threats which drive Cooper and co. on, I really would have liked to see more of him working against Alan. Think Tyson, but scarier!
Finally, as a subtle attempt to say goodbye to the fans, and round the series off, Part III is filled with cameos from characters from the first film, including Black Doug and Stu’s escort wife (Heather Graham). Whilst I applaud Phillips’ ambition to tie the whole three films together, the entire exercise failed, and felt more like a “Hey, it’s Black Doug, remember him?” wink to the audience rather than a well weaved plot line.
This all being said, the main currency for comedies is laughs, and all could be forgiven if my sides split and my ass fell off. Sadly, even this wasn’t up to form, as the gags are cheap, and whilst I did chuckle along to most of it, there aren’t many stand-out, memorable moments that I will be quoting for weeks to come. In fact, my mind is drawing a blank right now writing this review, which says alot.
If you liked the first two, then check it out. Like me, I am sure there is something in here for you. However, sad to say, it’s time for the Wolfpack to disband and go their separate ways. Maybe to rehab.
Rating – 3 out of 5
Did you know? Liam Neeson was originally supposed to play the tattoo artist in Part II, but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts.