The story is thin, but that precedence was established with the first movie.
The epic adventure of the Wolfpack finally comes to an end with The Hangover Part III. Director Todd Phillips and his three extraordinary lead actors—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis—were able to create a pop culture sensation with The Hangover in 2009, a movie that was hilarious, offensive, and endlessly quotable. The joke was beaten into the ground and expanded into a second film, which saw Phillips tipping his hand and proving he didn’t have a fresh enough approach to warrant a sequel. Now, though, with the third (and, let’s hope, final) installment, Phillips and his team of actors manage to wrap up the trilogy on a mostly satisfactory note, although the comedy doesn’t come close to equaling that of the first film.
Having suffered together through some of the worst experiences of their lives, Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) have one last challenge: convincing Alan (Galifianakis) to enter a sort of life rehab program to get him back on track after the death of his father (Jeffrey Tambor). Reluctantly he agrees and, along with Doug (Justin Bartha), the friends set off across the Arizona desert toward New Horizons where Alan will get the help he needs.
Their trip is interrupted when the men are taken captive by a frightening man named Marshall (John Goodman), who tells them Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong)—the bane of the men’s existence since the first movie—has stolen $22 million in gold bars from him. Marshall takes Doug hostage as collateral and tells Phil, Stu, and Alan they have three days to find Chow; if they don’t, he’s going to kill Doug. They don’t know where or how to start looking for Chow, but we all know they’re going to end up where it all began: Vegas.
Credit must be given to Phillips for maturing as a filmmaker (both technically and emotionally) over the course of the three films. Phillips doesn’t pretend he is making artistic cinema; he makes movies to make people laugh. In The Hangover, his “style” was to simply put the camera in one place and let the actors improvise to get the funniest lines. In Part III, though, he has begun challenging himself to take a more studied, nuanced approach to his camerawork and style of directing. He plays with varying camera angles and even incorporates some beautiful shots of the Arizona desert and Chow’s Mexican villa. While his contemporaries such as Judd Apatow choose to stick to the no-style style of filmmaking, Phillips shows fair amount of growth as a director.
The story is thin, but that precedence was established with the first movie. Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin do weave together stories that extend back to The Hangover, mostly with success. I’ve personally never been a fan of the Mr. Chow character and feel he is a one-note joke that underutilizes Ken Jeong’s talents as an actor. In Part III, he is the main protagonist, which means we are tortured by his gratuitous cursing and borderline offensive accent for most of the movie. Jeong has had trouble with Chow’s speech pattern since the beginning and he drops in and out of the accent constantly, which could almost be a drinking game in itself.
Jeong and the plot are the movie’s only real failures. Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis are terrific again, having solidified their onscreen chemistry over the course of three movies. Goodman is a delightful bad guy who fits perfectly into Phillips’ world. Melissa McCarthy cameos as a love interest for Alan, but isn’t given nearly enough screen time to flex her comedic abilities.
No movie will ever equal The Hangover, try as it might. However, The Hangover Part III is a worthy successor and good enough to make us forget about The Hangover Part II almost entirely. | Matthew Newlin