The Hangover Part III Review
by Daniel Rester
Back in 2009, audiences received a surprise with The Hangover, a hilarious and inventive comedy that went on to become a major success. Two years later came The Hangover Part II. That film disappointed many, being derivative, dumb, and dirty. Now comes The Hangover Part III, the supposed ending of the story.
Writer-director Todd Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin must have taken some notes after Part II, because Part III doesn’t just poorly copy the first film like the second movie did. But that isn’t to say that it is a success. This time Phillips and Mazin have almost taken their material too far away from the Hangover world, using a decidedly darker tone than the previous two and turning the third entry into more of a crime thriller than a comedy. The move is bold and I admire it in ways, but the results end up being uneven and not-so-funny.
The third outing is more focused on the characters of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis). After Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) try to take Alan to a rehabilitation center for various reasons, the four get caught up in a big mess with a crime lord named Marshall (John Goodman). Basically, Marshall wants the men to seek out Chow because Chow stole a bunch of gold from him – with some of this linking back to situations from the first film. If they don’t, the always-sidelined-character Doug gets killed. And so the shenanigans begin, only this time with less alcohol involved.
It’s interesting how Phillips and Mazin try to stay loyal to the fan-base while also doing something different. By just trying to do something new and creative, though, they make this film better than its rote predecessor. But the results are…strange. I did laugh out loud a few times with the comedy aspects, but other moments were going more for darkness, emotion, or sweetness, which the film sometimes succeeds with. It even plays violence seriously at times, revolving no laughs around such moments.
The movie does actually seem to care more about its characters, with a few good moments of development and other heartfelt ones. But far too much time is spent on Chow and Alan, which is where the film missteps a bit. Yes, the two characters are pretty funny, but they are really better in smaller doses. Plus both of them are more jerks than weirdoes in this entry, though Galifianakis and Jeong do add a few welcome touches of shade to them. Phil, Stu, and (especially) Doug, meanwhile, are more set to the side at times. All of the actors here are also going on auto-pilot, though each of them do have their shining moments. Goodman, Melissa McCarthy (as a pawn-shop employee), and Heather Graham (returning as the character of Jade) also add a nice bit to the mix.
Two other things that also popped out for me were the soundtrack and the cinematography. Weird, huh? The film is actually perfectly complimented by the tunes in the background, including everything from Billy Joel to Nine Inch Nails. And some of the shot choices here actually draw attention to form in interesting ways. Shooting in Thailand, Mexico, and Las Vegas this time, Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher seem to be having fun in how they capture the locations – but never making them grimy-looking like the second film did to Bangkok. One scene in Vegas stood out for me when it came to camerawork and lighting, employing certain movements and the use of strobe lights.
Part III is less of a party and more of a next-day hangover, when things actually begin getting serious and people begin waking up (in this case, Phillips and Mazin with their creative decisions). The movie is nowhere near the heights of the first film, and it doesn’t even really succeed as a straight-up comedy. Where it does succeed is in diverting from the usual path, helping to make it a better outing than the second film. But the ending results are highly muddled and the film is quite forgettable. Still, Part III is funny, emotional, and satisfying enough as a conclusion, and I give it props for that and recommend it as a rental for fans. Also, stay through the credits.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).