Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"The Hangover Part III": a fitting, mostly funny conclusion to an uneven trilogy

"The Hangover" is a film that, when it came out, it was an instant classic. Not only that, it exploded in the box office and everyone and their mother went to see it and laughed their asses off no matter how depraved it was. Sequels were inevitable, having the sequels being constantly measured up to the first one would be inevitable as well. With "The Hangover Part II," Todd Phillips decided the best way to go about that would be literally copy the formula of the first film, to almost an exact science. Not only was the setup and payoff the same, many of the jokes were similar as well. It was an experiment in self-plagiarism. Todd Phillips tries to deny that the two films are basically the same, after all, the second one's in Bangkok! I mean, come on! But if "The Hangover Part II"was made by someone else and was never called "The Hangover Part II," you can bet Todd Phillips would be crying foul. I guess when you make a film that crosses $500 million in the box office, denial becomes your best friend.

The first thing that becomes clear with "The Hangover Part III" is that it's not a carbon copy of the first one. Thank God. Instead, the film heavily references events that transpire in the first movie and apparently Alan's (Zach Galifianakis) actions have set a chain of events that has made John Goodman's character very pissed off and looking for blood. In the third one, the Wolfpack have to go to Tijuana to find Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), who had stolen $21 million of gold from Marshall (John Goodman). They must find him and bring him to Marshall or else Doug (Justin Bartha) gets killed. Trying to find Leslie Chow ultimately leads them back to the place they hoped they'd never have to come back to, Las Vegas.

Basically, the plotline for "The Hangover Part III" is very, very, very standard. What made the first movie so fun was how original its concept was. It was an R-rated mystery comedy. This time, the plot structure is your standard thriller. We will kidnap your friend (or lover or child) and will kill that person unless you bring us Chow (or money or whatever). So it's a very basic plot and basic structure. Nothing happens in the movie that would be coming from left-field, except maybe one scene involving a giraffe.

"Part III" is an average comedy. The bad news being that it's definitely a step down from the first one, but the good news? It's a vast improvement from the second.  "Part III" doesn't do anything special, but it at least provides another good showcase for these characters to play off each other and, after looking at some of the critics reviews, I was surprised at how often I laughed. Some claimed the movie goes into flat out "thriller" territory and stops being funny, but I definitely disagree. There are still plenty of funny scenes in the second half. Leslie Chow is still an annoying character and Ken Jeong has pretty much worn out his welcome for me, but he's definitely not as annoying as he was in the second one.

Perhaps it's because I hated the second one so much that I was able to enjoy this one much more, but I don't think that's completely the case. The truth is, I like these characters. I like Stu and Phil (Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper). I think Helms, Cooper, and Galifianakis are great together. I was wondering when Mike Tyson was gonna show up, he never did, but I still enjoyed seeing these characters back together without doing the same exact things that they did in the first two movies.

I liked the inclusion of John Goodman as the bad guy as well. The general public largely doesn't realize just how nasty John Goodman can get so it's nice to see his mean-spirited-ness on full display here.  I love that he's appearing in more movies once again.

And even though the third one does have a very basic plot, it's still fun to see how it ties in to events that happened during the first movie. It's also nice to see Alan's character mature a little bit and the return of Heather Graham and her son (Carlos!) is nice as well. Sorry critics, this isn't as terrible as you're claiming this to be. It's not great and it's very formulaic, but it's a step up from the second film and, overall, a pretty fitting, mostly funny conclusion to the trilogy.

Grade: B-

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