Struggling to cope with the death of his father, man-child, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has been refusing to take his meds and is displaying personality traits that are a little out of the ordinary, even for him. Egged on by their wives, the Wolf Pack agree to take him to a care home for some professional help. Of course, nothing can run smoothly in these films and along the way, they are hijacked by John Goodman’s crime boss, Marshall. Taking one of their number as collateral, Marshall encourages the gang to hunt down the infamous Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) and the gold that he stole from him.
Director Todd Philips has given us a Hangover entry that is so far removed from the first two, you wonder if this should have been a movie in its own right rather than part of a franchise. If the first two chapters of the trilogy were the party, then The Hangover Part III is very much the true hangover. The original 2009 misadventure in Vegas has sparked a chain of events that will lead our heroes down a dark path. A very dark, very violent path. Yes, this is the only film in trilogy to have a body count. Not everyone will have chance to get up and walk it off.
Philips is clearly experimenting with his style here and there are some cinematic flourishes that impress. A stealthy walk through a Las Vegas hotel suite is like entering the second circle of hell. Strobe lighting provides a fractured scene of drugs, violence and glassy-eyed prostitutes that causes genuine unease. It wouldn’t look out-of-place in a Michael Mann film and there in lies the problem. Like the acts of violence that pop throughout the course of the narrative, it all belongs in another film.
It’s because of this subdued narrative that the film fails to provide any proper laughs. Alan has mutated from a hairy means-well, to a mean-spirited son of a bitch. A man who you wouldn’t share a towel with let alone your holidays. Galifianakis relies on shouting his lines and tripping over things for humour and as Part 3 is largely built around him, it can become extremely tiring. Compounding the lack of laughs is the decision to greatly expand the role of Ken Jeong as Mr Chow. Spending as much time on the screen as the others, he has become a vicious sociopath, who breaks the necks of dogs and abuses call girls. Whilst this obviously gives Jeong something meatier to get his teeth into, it just feels uncomfortable rather than amusing. With Jeong and Galifianakis dominating the screen, there is very little for Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms to do aside from react and gurn.
It’s interesting to note that the biggest laughs in the film come from a mid-credits sting that acts a way for Philips to say: ‘Look, if you wanted another bootleg copy of the original that tops the second, then THIS is how we’d have to do it. Is that what you really would have wanted?’ And weirdly, it may have been better to go down the path of least resistance. When you create a film that makes The Hangover Part II seem not all that bad in comparison, we have a problem.
The bottom line is, The Hangover never needed sequels and this rather limp finale suggests that all involved were better off doing something else with their time. Rather than grabbing at straws in an attempt to replicate the success of the original.