The Hangover Part III
2013, 100mins, 15
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer (s): Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Cast includes: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Heather Graham, John Goodman, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha
UK Release Date: 23rd May 2013
It all ends. So reads the tagline for “The Hangover Part III”, the finale to a trilogy that started only 4-years ago, but has since morphed into one of the biggest comedic franchises of all time. In 2009 “The Hangover” arrived with minimal expectation but became a word of mouth sensation, raking in gargantuan amounts of cash and more shockingly legitimate critical recognition. It made superstars of leads Bradley Cooper (now Oscar nominated), Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, and of course, led to an inevitable sequel. The second feature arrived in summer 2011 craftily entitled “The Hangover Part II”, and whilst the box-office still burped out vast quantities of dollar, the reaction was much more diverse. The picture rekindled the original cast’s affability and offered a handful of rich belly-laughs, but too often wandered into the shadow of its ingenious older sibling, repeating plot beats and character arcs shamelessly. It wasn’t a foul creation, but it was certainly disappointing. The same criticism can’t be made of “The Hangover Part III”. Writers Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin substitute bleary-eyed revelations and horrific surprises with a chase narrative of sorts, throwing the three leading characters across the USA in search of wanted felon Leslie Chow. It’s an imperfect feature and takes a considerable chunk of time to find anything approaching a solid rhythm, but when the adventure gears up “The Hangover Part III” actually makes for a satisfying finish.
With his father dead and his behaviour spiralling out of control, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is in need of a life reassessment. Encouraged by buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to seek medical attention, Alan reluctantly agrees, but en route to treatment the group hit a severe snag. They are cornered by Marshall (John Goodman) and a band of heavies, their captor instructing the boys to help him locate criminal Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), the irresponsible gangster having pocketed some $21 million in stolen gold from the angered goon. Marshall takes Doug as insurance, and sends the other three out to uncover Chow’s whereabouts; reluctantly forcing them to operate as The Wolf-Pack one last time.
Todd Phillips has always been a very polished purveyor of comedy, favouring pronounced visual flair and picturesque cinematography of which the genre is usually starved. He maintains this standard here, but also indicates a clear growth in other departments, managing to mount certain sequences at a perplexingly artistic pitch. He shoots Las Vegas and Tijuana with the same sort of grungy atmosphere that defined the locales of previous entries, but “The Hangover Part III” has a much more flashy action itch to scratch, forcing the characters to strategise break-ins, scale structures and indulge in various bouts of vehicular carnage. All of this is conducted in fluent cinematic terms, Phillips maintaining his technical skillset whilst exhibiting an advanced editorial technique. There are moments here packed with legitimate style and energy. The best example begins in a strobe lit hotel room, before exploding onto the streets of Vegas, as a car stalks an airborne target. Not only does the material sit comfortably and provide entertainment; it looks lavish and upmarket to boot. Even in the realm of high-end contemporary Hollywood, that’s a genre rarity.
The cast retain a vibrant chemistry; it is obvious these fellows adore working together. Galifianakis has struggled with the same shtick since the denouement of the first movie, but even he manages weird moments of inspiration and surprising vulnerability. Cooper and Helms are the standouts (they’ve subtly stolen the franchise away from their bearded chum), reacting to the ridiculous events around them with aplomb and succinct comic timing. Ken Jeong barrels into an even larger role this time around, but is less annoying than in the previous flick, chiefly because the script actually channels his over-caffeinated (still kind of racist) routine into workable material. The efforts of the central protagonists are unquestionable, which makes unmemorable newcomers like Goodman’s godfather and Melissa McCarthy’s bitchy pawnbroker less of a problem.
“The Hangover Part III” aims less for the bawdy raunchy belly-laughs and more for some good ol’ fashioned road trippin’, stitching the antics together using Phillip’s newfound fascination with physical bombast. The screenplay takes at least a quarter of an hour to find some footing, spouting out some dire material along the way (the much advertised giraffe gag is awful), but when the pack are reteamed, the amusing banter and occasional moments of lurid awesomeness keep the giggles coming. It’s true that “The Hangover Part III” is less interested in straightforward comedy than the previous films, but it still feels like an appropriate addition to the franchise. The formula has just been shaken up and the film-maker fuelled with a refreshing new perspective, ensuring the picture circumvents the stale repetition of “Part II”.
Mike Epps and Heather Graham lovingly reprise roles and it’s nice to note things are a little less overtly mean-spirited this time around. “The Hangover Part III” works hard to try and lather some pathos into its crazed goodbye, it doesn’t always work, but the attempt is appreciated and there are times when the brotherly love between the heroes is almost affecting. Almost. Fans and frat boys should respond favourably, and whilst other demographics might shudder, I personally found “The Hangover Part III” a mirthful way to bring this charade to a halt. Oh, and stay during the credits. You’ll be rewarded with an absolute doozy of a farewell.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013