MAY 23, 2013

I remember my first experience with the original “The Hangover” from Todd Phillips. For some reason, I had missed most of the advertisements and was walking into the theater with zero expectations. And I ended up laughing hysterically, along with the rest of the packed theater. It became one of the most iconic boys-night-out ventures ever for being clever, inventive, and almost the perfect comedy. Then the sequels came.

“The Hangover Part II” took a sharp turn for the worse. It was not as intelligent or as resourceful as the first film. It was also basically a shot for shot remake of “The Hangover,” acting more like a mad lib on the original (replacing Vegas with Bangkok, replacing Doug with Teddy) than a fresh, new idea. Todd Phillips had almost lost his audience. But when the advertisements for “The Hangover Part III” arrived, the credibility from his first venture still took hold, and we got excited one more time. And one more time, our expectations were dashed by yet another ill-advised outing from “The Hangover” crew.

“The Hangover Part III” abandons all the conventions from the first two films that worked. This time there’s no forgotten night in which the Wolfpack has to retrace their steps like in “Dude, Where’s My Car.” The piecing together of the puzzle of the previous night is what made “The Hangover” hilarious: three grown men losing their friend and traveling all over Las Vegas to find him, recalling the stupid shit that occurred, and forming a friendship in the process. It was ridiculous, it was raunchy, and it was entertaining. “Part III” is questionably a comedy and instead follows the plot points of your run-of-the-mill caper.

Todd Phillips refused to learn from his mistakes. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) in “The Hangover” is one of the best supporting comedic roles in the history of comedies. As in “The Hangover Part II,” make him the main character, and all comedic value is lost. “Part III” returns to this idea, except adds Ken Jeong’s Leslie Chow to the central character mix as well, another step in the wrong direction. Not that these characters aren’t funny, but having them carry most of the dialogue instead of quick, jabby retorts, and you run the gambit of their snarky one-liners far too quickly.

Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) are hardly present in this sequel, two men who made the original film the success. Reflecting on the film, I barely remember Stu even in the movie, except to react when someone’s killed or to pull from one of about ten whining or angered reactions to something Alan does. Paraphrased from a fellow critic’s review, Cooper looks like he’s going through the motions, ready to get back to Academy Award-worthy performances.

The rest of the cast comprises quick cameos to come “full circle,” except the cameos are poorly handled and feel forced, slapping the audience across the face. We return to Heather Graham for no real reason other than to bring her back, but she’s married now and has quick the escort business and has no real attachment to anyone. Carlos, her kid from the first film, returns, facing Alan, but even this reuniting feels wasted. There’s nothing more frustrating than leaving after a movie and developing a handful of ideas that could have made a film lightyears better when writers make money to come with the nonsense you witness on-screen.

Kudos for getting John Goodman on board for this comedy, but his brief appearances do not match those of Paul Giamatti’s from “The Hangover Part II.” Instead, he’s just a plot device to put these men on the run again. Melissa McCarthy at least adds some star quality to her role, matching Zach Galifianakis on the same level of juvenile humor, but still does not raise this film out of the proverbial gutter.

Even Las Vegas feels like an afterthought. What I thought would be one of the funniest and most epic moments, where Phil is hanging off the side of Caesar’s Palace while Alan tries to take a picture, becomes a chaotic scene that is glazed over. There’s no authenticity to this sequel, there’s no originality, and there’s no actual warrant for even stepping into this world again if you’re not going to go balls to the wall. Watch the advertisements for “Part III,” and it’s easy to get your hopes up with lines like “I told myself, I would never come back” and “someone should burn this place to the ground.” But nothing becomes of this. What happens in Vegas might as well have been anywhere because nothing happens. The most destruction caused is when Alan falls on one of the letters of Caesar’s Palace, and a light flickers.

I don’t even want to discuss the abysmal after-credits sequence. Not only did it feel like a complete afterthought and haphazardly thrown together, but it was also just plain dumb. It drives the final nail in this franchise’s coffin.

There’s very little worse than leaving on a sour note. One wonders if we’d all have been better off sticking with the original “Hangover” and avoided the sequels altogether. Todd Phillips will move on to other raunchy comedies, and I can almost guarantee there will be a resurgence for “The Hangover.” Even though this was theoretically “The End,” that phrase means extremely little in Hollywood. So we can only hope that five or ten years down the road, Phillips, or hopefully even someone else, gets their shit together and brings these characters back to their glory days (I smell a prequel). And even if this future sequel is just as horrible as the last two, at least we’ll always have “The Hangover.”

May 23, 2013

Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips
Craig Mazin

by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

Warner Bros. Pictures

(for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity)


100 minutes

Lawrence Sher

Christophe Beck

Debra Neil-Fisher
Jeff Groth

Bradley Cooper
Ed Helms
Zach Galifianakis
Ken Jeong
Heather Graham
Jeffrey Tambor
Justin Bartha
John Goodman

Todd Phillips
Dan Goldberg

$103 million

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