There’s no way any fan of the first Hangover film can honestly claim that The Hangover Part III is as much fun. There are a few good laughs to be found in the new film, but it’s not nearly as outrageous as the 2009 original. In an effort perhaps to please all those who criticized the second film for being a carbon copy of the first, director Todd Phillips ditches the blackout gimmick from the previous two movies, throws out the “what-happened-last-night?” narrative device, and goes in an entirely different direction this time.
After his father dies from a heart attack that was triggered by a road accident he caused involving an unfortunate giraffe, it becomes clear that Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is in need of professional help. His Wolfpack buddies – Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) – offer to drive him to a psychiatric facility in Arizona, but they’re ambushed en route by a mobster named Marshall (John Goodman) who orders them to track down their old ‘frenemy’, Asian criminal Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong). As it turns out, Chow stole 21 million dollars worth of Marshall’s gold, and now the boys must follow after Chow all the way to Mexico and then to Vegas to recover the gold, or Marshall will have Doug killed.
Teetering uncomfortably between black comedy and bleak crime thriller, Part III is effectively a cat-and-mouse chase between the boys and Mr Chow, and the violence in the film isn’t played for laughs, it’s actually pretty gruesome, with both humans and animals in the firing line. The occasional laughs are provided by Zach Galifianakis’ dim-witted man-child Alan, who continues to do and say the stupidest things. His man-crush on Phil notwithstanding, Alan’s budding romance with a pawn-shop dealer in Vegas (Melissa McCarthy) gives us one of the film’s most hilarious scenes.
But oddly, The Hangover Part III’s main focus is Ken Jeong’s Mr Chow, who can be hilarious in small doses, but gets way too much screen time here to do his usual mean-spirited shtick. As a result, Bradley Cooper’s Phil and Ed Helms’ Stu are reduced to second-rung players in this movie.
What’ll likely disappoint the fans most is the absence of any satisfying sight gags, the sort that made the first Hangover such a riot. Alas there are no tigers, no celebrity cameos, not even a baby to jerk off. What you do get is a gratuitous reunion with Heather Graham’s stripper Jade, and a strangely unsetting scene between Alan and her son that doesn’t belong in this film. The only comedic set-piece you’ll remember is a thrilling sequence staged on the roof of Caesar’s Palace.
And yet, with all its shortcomings, you have to admit The Hangover Part III contains more of a plot than the earlier films. There may be fewer surprises and not so many laugh-out-loud moments, but its twist-filled storyline ensures that you’re seldom bored.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Hangover Part III. Keep your expectations in check, and you won’t come out entirely disappointed.