FILM REVIEW: The Hangover Part 3
"I thought that was pretty funny. He killed a giraffe. Who gives a f--k?"
Phil (Bradley Cooper) in The Hangover Part 3
That sentiment, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much captures the ethos of the Hangover movies. In 2009, the original film was an exercise in cinematic hazing: bombing the audience with a systematic campaign of shock and awful. The "I-can't-believe-what-I-just-saw" buzz pulled audiences in, like so many who slow to gawk at a car wreck. The result: The Hangover became the most profitable R-rated comedy in Hollywood history.
The original was funny — in parts. It was also tasteless and offensive in what would become the franchise's signature tone. The Hangover Part 2 was a weak attempt to repeat the success of the first, but with more shocks, an exotic setting in Bangkok and what turned out to be a $500 million US payday for a director who until then was best known for Old School.
If anything has sustained the Hangover franchise, it's the unlikely chemistry of the wolf pack: the groomsmen who joined forces to rescue poor Doug (Justin Bartha) in the first instalment.
The wolf pack — from left, Zach Galifianakis as Alan, Ed Helms as Stu, Justin Bartha as Doug and Bradley Cooper as Phil — reunites for another ludicrous adventure. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
You have Ed Helms as Stu, the dentist in a perpetual panic. Bradley Cooper is Phil, the grizzly-chinned captain of whatever. And then there's Zach Galifianakis as Alan, a strange stew of desperation, idiocy and douchebaggery. Each of the actors has done better on their own (see below), but together they have enough frantic energy to make the Hangover experience passable.
We now come to the final "comedic" capstone in the series — with comedic in quotes because there's a question of whether Hangover 3 is still actually a comedy. This is a movie that asks you to laugh at beheaded zoo animals, sodomy, heart attacks and elder abuse.
Ken Jeong returns as the unhinged Mr. Chow in The Hangover Part 3. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The comedic formula appears to be that some horrible, offensive or embarrassing thing happens to someone and we're to laugh uncomfortably, from a safe distance. Hangover 3 is essentially a feature-length movie that channels that gag where someone steps on a rake and gets hit in the face — except the rake is covered in feces and Ken Jeong is yelling "Yeah, playa!" while it happens.
Jeong's character Mr. Chow is the reason the wolf pack returns. It seems he stole some gold from another criminal kingpin named Marshall (John Goodman), who captures Doug and orders the wolf pack to deliver Chow in order to save their friend.
Marshall (John Goodman) sets things into motion in The Hangover Part 3. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
That may be the plot, but Alan is the true focus here. Director Todd Phillips asks: can a maladjusted manboy be saved? But putting the conclusion of the series squarely on the shoulders of a kamikaze comedian is risky. At times, it feels as if Galifianakis is pulling a mega, Andy Kaufman-sized prank on Hollywood.
In Hangover 3 he takes centre stage, but it's hard to engender sympathy for a character as likeable as curdled milk. He moons over his man-crush Phil, calls everyone "brah," berates Stu — Alan embraces stupidity like a life force, which begs the question: why does the wolf pack even bother?
An advanced case of sequel-tis, Hangover 3 falls into the trap of taking itself and its characters too seriously. Instead of ramping up the raunch, Phillips wants to give a somewhat dignified bow to his brahs. But the joke's on us. The real question? Who's laughing?
RATING: 2 out of 5
What to watch instead of The Hangover Part 3:
Cooper fans will enjoy him playing a character with actual motivation in the drug tale Limitless.
If you enjoy Helms, check out Cedar Rapids. He plays a character similar to Stu, but one with sweetness at his core.
To see the essence of the Galifianakis passive-aggressive comedy style on display, watch his Between Two Ferns series online.
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