The Hangover worked so well because it wasnt merely a raunchy laugh fest. It was an actual mystery, with characters and audience equally in the dark about an evening fraught with injury, debauchery and a missing groomsman.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
The Hangover Part III brings a little mystery back to the franchise, which went limp when the lazy 2011 sequel simply parroted the original. Here, the mystery comes from a reinvented formula. Theres no wedding nor missing groomsman this time. No actual hangover from which to recover. Instead, the film is more a caper than a comedy.
The latest misadventures by the antisocial man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) cause buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to stage an intervention. But on their way to hand deliver Alan to a mental health clinic in Arizona, they experience an intervention of their own.
They get captured by crime kingpin Marshall (John Goodman), who needs their help in tracking down the fugitive Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Seems the cartoonish lunatic ripped off $21 million in gold bricks from Marshall, and pressing the Wolfpack into service may be the only means of recovery. In the meantime, hell hold Doug for safe keeping.
This final adventure isnt the laugh riot viewers are expecting partly because the context and focus have changed. When we met Alan in 2009, he was a rather harmless oddball one with all the best lines. Four years later, hes an off-his-meds menace with no regard for humanity (or, as the opening scene vividly displays, animal life). And hes now the lead character.
Filmmaker Todd Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin attempt to add some passion and pathos to Alans world. Theyre partly successful, thanks to the dependable Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) as a nutty pawn shop owner who crushes on Alan. Otherwise, hes an unlikable creep.
Jeong also earns more screen time. His frequently nude character who manages to combine conning, cocaine and cock-fighting certainly gives the picture a manic burst whenever hes onscreen. But he works better in small doses.
Because of this shift, the project feels less like a buddy flick and more like a star vehicle for Galifianakis and Jeong. (The pair actually used to perform stand-up comedy together as far back as 1998.)
This relegates Helms and recent Oscar nominee Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) to straight-men roles. And poor Bartha. He endures the thankless gig of being a member of the Wolfpack but unable to take part in any of its shenanigans. Perhaps this is cosmic punishment for having appeared in Gigli.
Fortunately, Part III functions quite effectively as a succession of heists a la Oceans Eleven. There are some really clever escapades and plot twists along the way (from Tijuana to Vegas), all set to a bizarre soundtrack that incorporates Hanson, Danzig and Schubert.
The film delivers scant few laugh-out-loud moments, but its never boring. Only during the post-credits epilogue does this Hangover rise to the in-your-face hilarity of its early promise. A truly twisted array of images provides a fitting send-off for a series renowned for being the highest-grossing R-rated comedies of all time.