Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"The Hangover" Series Comes to a Much Needed End

Directed by Todd Phillips, written by Phillips & Craig Mazin, starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, and John Goodman - Rated R

Finish it...
I pretty much swore off writing reviews of comedies a little while back because comedy is harder to judge than any other form of entertainment.  Not to get into my whole theory as to why reviewing comedies is a pointless exercise, let’s just say that some people might find The Hangover Part III hilarious, others will be indifferent, and others will hate it.  Duh, right?  That is exactly why I don’t like reviewing comedies, but this film deserves a review mainly because it is the end of the series.  As for my official stance on the film, I’m indifferent.  I laughed a few times (never all that hard), rolled my eyes here and there, and left the theatre slightly amused and glad that the series had come to an end.
Writer/director Todd Phillips took a lot of flak from fans and critics alike for The Hangover Part II.  A lot of people were angry because he essentially made the first film over again with a different location and only slightly different jokes.  I was actually one of the few apologists for that film when it was initially released, and I stand by my immediate response to that film.  When I left the theatre, I felt like I got my money’s worth.  I laughed quite a bit, even if most of it was predictable.  That film, however, did not hold up well at all during a second viewing.  A comedy doesn’t have to be re-watchable, but the best comedies certainly are. 
Because of this backlash, Phillips promised that Part III would be different.  Well, he certainly came through with that promise.  This movie is a borderline action-comedy rather than a full blown laugh fest.  I can’t tell if it’s intentional or not, but I do know that it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the first film. 
The plot involves the wolfpack of Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) and their psychotic friend/enemy Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong).  Mr. Chow has stolen some gold from a ruthless gangster (John Goodman) who kidnaps Doug, telling the rest of the wolfpack that he’ll kill Doug if they can’t deliver Chow and the gold.  So the movie is still a detective story in essence; it just doesn’t involve the investigators being hungover the whole time.  Oh, and it’s not all that funny. 
Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a few times as I watched this movie, but nothing truly cracked me up (well, maybe the sight gag after the credits…).  It’s all slightly amusing, but it has become boring.  If you still find the simple sight of Zach Galifianakis funny then you’ll like it, but there are no new and interesting jokes regarding his character.  It’s as if Todd Phillips expects everyone to laugh just because Galfianakis is present.  To his credit, a lot of people will laugh, but I need more than just a shot of Galifianakis with his shirt off if I’m expected to laugh. 
The other problem with the film is Chow.  I found him amusing in his thankfully few scenes in the first film, but he was unbearable in the second film.  I thought he was simply annoying, and not in a funny way.  Chow is a bit more bearable in this film, and I do admit to laughing at a few of his lines and a bit of physical comedy.  But overall, the character is one-note and should be left on the sidelines.  Once again, though, if you find that character funny before, you’ll love it.
The Hangover Part III just didn’t do it for me, but I am glad it exists, and I am happy that the franchise has been brought to an end.  I am also glad to see the box office for the film is not all that great, ensuring that this is the last installment.  I don’t think the sequels “ruined” the first film or anything, because a film stands on its own and no prequel or sequel can change it.  They are definitely unnecessary, though.  I think my own purchases regarding the series says it all: I bought the first film, I rented the second movie on video and wondered why I wanted to watch it again, I have watched Part III once and that is enough.  Perhaps “once is enough” should have been the mantra of the filmmakers.

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