While the popularity of the Hangover franchise eludes me (I don’t think they’re very good), I can’t say I mind them, and on a vague, nebulous level, I appreciate what they’re attempting. The Hangover films are rare in being R-rated comedies that rely more on characters than mugging for the camera. While this is admirable, their particular brand of offensive (at least in theory) humor doesn’t do much for me. The best I can say about these movies is that they don’t bother me — though neither of the previous entries have exactly embedded themselves into my memory. The same more or less goes for The Hangover Part III, which reunites the film’s principal cast and director Todd Phillips — though the undistinguished and laugh-challenged nature of this one presents a much more troublesome situation.
The general criticism of The Hangover Part II (2011) was that it was basically a rehash of The Hangover (2009). Both feature the main characters — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) — waking up from a drug-induced blackout and desperately needing to reconstruct the happenings of a debauched — and surprising — night they have no memory of now. As if to counter the charge of being the same old movie, Part III goes out of its way to not duplicate the formula, removing its flimsy mystery trappings in exchange for a fairly straightforward crime caper. The result is a movie without the absurdity and nastiness of its predecessors. While I’m not saying the first two Hangover films were anything special, that basic formula was what made them stand apart. Now, we’re stuck with yet another farcical road trip/crime comedy that’s more akin to the recent Identity Thief than any previous Hangover flick.
Even this might not be so bad, assuming you hold some reverence toward the film’s characters. This is obviously the “mature” installment. Phil and Stu have become responsible human beings, leaving the bulk of the plot dealing with man-child Alan, who is on a rough road to growing up. If you care about these people, then good for you, but it doesn’t leave much room for comedy while the movie becomes surprisingly reverential and sentimental — something at odds with a series that mostly avoided such things. Part III is very much — almost to the point of desperation — trying to wrap up the series.
Like so many sequels and reboots, we’re left with a film that relies too much on its pedigree — with all the cameos, references and flashbacks becoming distractions. There’s a sense that Phillips is trying to slather meaning onto a shallow film, mostly via the soundtrack — like an odd Midnight Cowboy (1969) reference set to Harry Nilsson’s song “Everybody’s Talkin’.” It’s interesting thematically, but it’s also too much effort being put into some lousy material (that I’m more interested in the movie’s choice of a Black Sabbath song than anything else in the movie says a lot). In the end, The Hangover Part III is a farewell tour for a series that overestimates how beloved it truly is. Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande