The Hangover Trilogy…let that sink in for a minute brosef. I’m sure the executives at Warner Bros. knew this phenomenon was coming when they gave the Director of Old School a modest budget to make the original. Now 3-movies and $1 billion later this comedy juggernaut about 3-buffoons who will seemingly ingest whatever is put in front of them is the most successful comedy franchise of all time. That doesn’t mean the trilogy has even been any good but after the abomination that was Part II the Wolfpack’s sendoff had nowhere to go but up.
Part III picks up with the most disturbed of the group, Alan (Zach Galifianakis.) Alan has never been all there but here we really know he’s struggling now because he’s purchased a giraffe…which he is driving down the highway. Director Todd Phillips doesn’t need subtle exposition to explain Alan’s condition; if you buy a giraffe you’re probably pretty fucked up. Suffice it to say Alan’s purchase doesn’t end well and his father (Jeffrey Tambor) is furious. After one of the film’s funnier exchanges Alan’s father has a fatal heart attack.
At the funeral the Wolfpack is reunited. Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (the guy who always ends up kidnapped) are inexorably linked to this bearded buffoon even when they’d care not to be (which seems like always.) At the funeral Alan’s family decides enough is enough and enlists his buddies to drive him to “New Horizons” in Arizona (a treatment facility for the weird.) What ensues is a road trip of completely contrived, ridiculous, intermittently funny proportions.
Formula in the Hangover movies began as a blessing in Part 1 but quickly twisted into an evil curse through Part 2. Phillips smartly avoids the “retrace your steps” motif for a more straightforward road trip. In the trip’s quieter moments (which are few and far between) the writing is sharp and the groups banter is often hysterical. By positioning the story around Alan, Galifianakis is given the chance to carry the movie which he can mostly do. You either love or hate his weirdo shtick, so if you can’t take it don’t bother.
The problem that has always plagued these movies (and Phillips work in general) is his penchant for the aggressive. Too often loud swearing and screaming is passed off as HILARIOUS. This aggression wore the middle of the movie out in the form of the ever present Chow (Ken Jeong.) Chow was a bit part in the original (with a very memorable entrance) and since has been given more and more screen time in these later chapters. And trust me, a little Chow goes a long way…and there is WAY too much Chow. Jeong can be a classic comic actor in the right role but here he is just an offensive stereotype who is too often a loud reminder of this films target audience.
When the film takes it’s Ritalin and focuses it lets the generally great cast riff to fun effect. John Goodman plays the evil Marshall and brings a nice bit of credibility to the picture. Unfortunately he’s mostly squashed by Phillips tendency to regress to stupid, frat boy pranks. I know the original movie’s poster is on every bro’s wall in America but Mr. Phillips they are going to see this anyway, no need to placate their sensibilities.
For all the faults on display the fact that this franchise has done this is remarkable. To last for 3-movies and have this level of success is an incredible feat. It’s a shame that after the first film strove for originality while these others have settled for familiarity. Part III is a worthy enough sendoff, especially if you stay until after the credits. The problem is it could’ve been much more.