Pass the Nurofen – ★½
The abiding thought that runs through your head as you’re watching the third (and final) installment in The Hangover franchise is the fact that these actors are so much better than this.
Since the first film came out of nowhere four years ago we’ve seen Bradley Cooper (Phil) grow out of his pretty-boy image into a really fine dramatic actor, best shown by his Oscar-nominated performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Zach Galifianakis (Alan) is one of the funniest people working in Hollywood whose best work is arguably only on show in his stand-up performances or his “Between Two Ferns” web series. Even Ed Helms (Stu) showed us he can really act with a great performance in the Duplass brothers’ film Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Ken Jeong (Mr. Chow) is never short of movie work and is one of the best things about the TV series “Community”. The only man struggling to break out of the Hangovers who would have be gunning for a part four payday is Doug (Justin Bartha), whose TV show “The New Normal” was cancelled after one season by NBC.
Poor old Bartha/Doug doesn’t really get on any of the posters or all that many lines in part III, but his peripheral place in the franchise is almost a running joke at this stage. With this in mind it’s no surprise to see him being kidnapped and held hostage, this time by John Goodman (gah, you were on such a good run Johnnie – Argo, Flight, Inside Llewyn Davis are all fresh in the mind) a gangster who has been duped out of his gold bullion by Mr. Chow. He instructs the wolf-pack (Phil, Alan, Stu) to find Chow and in return he won’t kill boring old Dougie. Cue a ramshackled run around Arizona, Tijuana and ending up where it all began four years ago – “Sin City” Las Vegas.
It’s safe to say The Hangover Part III attempts to deliver a bit of a plot, and it’s all centred around the redemption of Galifianakis’ Alan. His father just passed away but his family and small circle of friends decide that the obvious issues he’s been having are best dealt with by sending him away to a mental institute, even though Phil’s suggestion of “fat camp” would be cheaper. Obviously they never make it there and witnessing a few murders and meeting a love interest in the form of Melissa McCarthy is supposed to solve the problem. The whole process doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny so there’s not much point paying it too much attention. Instead take what you can as we hop from set-piece to set-piece – “look it’s a man driving a car with a giraffe in a trailer toward a low bridge, what hilarious consequences await!!” kinda thing. The fact most of the film’s better bits have already been plucked out and put into the trailer is a big disappointment, the big dramatic parachuting scene through Las Vegas is the focal part of the film’s final act so should have been held back so as you don’t just feel like you’ve paid a tenner to see a 90-minute cut of a 2-minute short. There’s no morning-after mysteries like the preceding two films and all that’s left is a heartless mess.
But despite all the problems, the film still manages to fit in a few laughs. Galifianakis and Jeong are incredibly funny people and when their characters aren’t being offensively predictable, they’re actually a lot of fun to spend time with. But it’s impossible to escape the notion that, like Cooper, they’re both so much better than this.
At this stage 42-year-old franchise director Todd Phillips needs to take a long hard look at himself in the mirror and try to work out what he should be doing with his life. He struck it lucky four years ago with the first film but you can’t just keep diluting a winning formula or else it will eventually just turn into shite like this.
USA / Directed By: Todd Phillips / Written By: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin / Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Melissa McCarthy / 100min / Comedy / Release: 24 May 2013 (Ireland, UK, USA, Canada)