Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Drunk with Power

Oh, if only I could somehow get those two hours back. The Hangover: Part III was released this Memorial Day weekend, and the final tale from the series that put Todd Phillips on par with Judd Apatow in terms of pure cinema raunchiness finally comes to an end, and it's an ignoble one that should have occurred back in 2009 with the closing credits of the first Hangover. Phillips up to that point had made a B-List career from his crude comedies, especially Road Trip and Old School. He was a director able to tap into that coveted 18-49 male audience with practiced ease. The Hangover proved not only to be an audacious comedy (it was certainly unique, if perhaps a bit overrated), and a star-making one at that. Besides Phillips, the movie proved to be a launching point for then-middling actors Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong and especially Zach Galifianakis. But The Hangover Part II was a mess, missing most of the charm that the first film so enjoyable. Still, it was a big fat success, and so Part III was all but guaranteed, and with a restructured story (no more memory loss) and a promise that it would be the most outrageous finale to date, it should have been at least worth a look.

Nobody needs that many sheets.
In this reunion of sorts, "Wolfpack" members Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) come together to help the disturbed manchild Alan (Galifianakis), who has unraveled even more after stopping his medication and in the aftermath of his father's death. The four men are making their way to a rehabilitation center for him when they are waylaid by ruthless gangster Marshall (John Goodman), from whom Lesley Chow (Jeong) stole $21 million in gold. Kidnapping Doug as collateral, Marshall demands that the remaining Wolfpack members find and apprehend Chow by any means necessary, and recover his gold in the process. If they cannot capture him within three days, Doug is history. But of course, with this group, nothing ever goes as planned. And when it comes to Chow, anything and everything is possible.
Jeffrey Tambor can never, ever smile.
Unfortunately, despite the insanity that is usually associated with this franchise, Part III makes Part II look like vintage Bill Cosby. Never mind the fact that most of the jokes here just aren't funny, but even the situations the trio find themselves in lack oomph. The first two Hangover movies featured Mike Tyson's tiger, a baby with sunglasses, transsexual prostitutes, and Mike Tyson. The most this sequel can muster is a decapitated giraffe, and that's the opening scene. The actors also look bored, sticking to their predetermined roles of straight guy, freaking-out guy and whack-job with minimal effort. Galifianakis' malaise in particular is disappointing, as Alan's zaniness is probably the main reason there are three Hangovers instead of just one. John Goodman is certainly a talented actor, but his character is too bland, and it seems like he was cast just to bring a strong presence to the movie (incidentally, the same role Paul Giamatti had in Part II). Melissa McCarthy is also grossly misused, as her crass, completely unlikeable character tries to undo all the goodwill she's gained from Bridesmaids and Identity Thief. Only the scenes with Ken Jeong's Chow are anything approaching quality, and that's because Jeong is the only cast member who seems to care that people are paying to see him put on a show. His crazy stunts almost manages to make up for the rampant stupidity of the film. Almost.
Oh, why, why are you doing this?
See, while The Hangover: Part III's best scenes are those featuring snippets from the original (best moment: the reunion of Alan and the baby - now toddler - in sunglasses), those are the times when Phillips seems to lose his focus and relapse into the coolness that this whole thing started with. In Part III, the movie takes itself FAR too seriously, committing far too much to the violence and not enough to the insanity that was the director's pedigree. A perfect example of this is the forced evolution of Alan; why do we need to see Alan become a different person? Sure, he's a halfwit moron with little redeeming value, but that's how we like him. The idea that Alan had to change in order to provide some sort of "closure" to the trilogy is the kind of misguided idea directors like to try when they think they're getting your money regardless. There are many other scenes that wouldn't feel out of place in the humorless context of modern action films or even serious dramas, as the writers obviously had a difficult time adjusting to the concept that many people were already tired of The Hangover's act. Still, their comedy is even darker than usual, to the point where it has barely an inkling of commonality with the first two movies.
Policeman of the year.
I have to give Phillips and his crew a little credit: with an almost guaranteed blockbuster on their hands, they refused to go the safe route and make an identical, certainly tiresome finale for their Hangover franchise. It's just too bad they don't know how to make anything else. The Hangover: Part III is arguably the worst movie this year. It's not funny, it's not exciting, and it completely disregards everything that made the original Hangover a treat for the senses. The good news is that we won't be seeing any more of this trash, at least not for the foreseeable future. The bad news is that it exists at all, and puts the final nail in the coffin of a once-robust film legacy. Apparently, it needed more Mike Tyson. Or at least his tiger.

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