The Hangover Part III opens with a showstopper that sets the tone for the rest of the film: Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is driving on the L.A. freeway with a giraffe in tow, blissfully unaware of logistics involved in his journey. As the giraffe’s head is narrowly piloted under low-hanging overpasses…well, we know exactly where this is going.
And it doesn’t disappoint: a cleanly severed giraffe’s head into a windshield and a massive freeway pileup later, the film has achieved its did-they-really-go-there shocker. Funny? Not really. Edgy? Maybe. But at the very least, this is something you don’t expect to see in a summer blockbuster. And Galifianakis’ “aw, shucks” expression is priceless.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie never comes close to matching that pitch-black go-for-broke impact; what follows is a surprisingly dull continuation of the adventures of the hard-livin’ Wolfpack – Alan, Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Stu (Ed Helms) – with arbitrary nods to the earlier films (mostly the first) along the way.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the animal cruelty doesn’t stop: I counted two dogs and at least five roosters in addition to the giraffe among the film’s zoological death count, with a drawn-out cock smothering among the most unpleasant scenes. Killing off kids and pets may have once been edgy comic fodder, but the hand has been overplayed. The old point about it being okay to murder people and not animals in films is still valid, but hey, isn’t this supposed to be a comedy? What’s with all the rampant nihilism?
Maybe that’s part of the problem: after a ribald original, many found the previous film too dark and depressing. This one takes it one step further: there aren’t any scripted jokes in the film at all, with what little humor remains rooted in the characterizations and performances. Instead, this feels like a Shane Black-inspired buddy action movie. But I laughed more during Iron Man 3.
The series began with a bachelor party that ended with utter confusion about what happened the night before, multiple blackouts, a missing groom…and one hell of a hangover. The second film traded Las Vegas for Bangkok and gave us the same exact movie. Good enough for me, but clearly they were going to have to try something different this time around…
Apparently, that meant more Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who is now the focal point of the movie. Chow ripped off local criminal Marshall (John Goodman) some years back, and has been rotting in a Bangkok prison ever since. But he recently escaped (in a bizarre, completely humorless opening sequence), and is now back in the area.
Where does The Wolfpack fit in? Apparently, Alan is the only person who has kept in touch with Chow, so Marshall kidnaps the group and holds Doug (Justin Bartha, again getting the shaft) hostage until they can bring him the man he wants. Ultimately, the film becomes a straightforward caper flick that lacks the manic energy and drug-induced mystery of the earlier films.
The Hangover Part III is all about Alan and Mr. Chow, two characters the film leans on like crutches for comedic support. Cooper and Helms play straight men to Galifianakis’ Alan, an overgrown man-child who seduces a pawn shop clerk (Melissa McCarthy) with a lollipop. Jeong gets to cover Hurt and I Believe I Can Fly, but tests our patience with additional screen time this time around (the actor is far better as Mr. Chang – no typecasting, really – on NBC’s Community).
Todd Phillips, returning as director, displays a deft hand for handling action sequences, but his script (co-written with Craig Mazin) gives him precious little to work with in the way of comedy or plain old entertainment value. Mazin also wrote the well-produced but similarly humorless Identity Thief. I dunno, if your comedy isn’t going to have laughs, it better have…something. The Hangover Part III just doesn’t have it.