Skip to main content

There is no facility that can fix this guy.

The Hangover Part III
(2013)

While it made a huge wad of cash, the second Hangover movie roundly took a beating from critics (and had a mixed reception from audiences). It was virtually the same as the first one, they decried. Presumably Todd Phillips was listening, which is why he eschews the (surely essential?) memory-defective structure in favour of something more linear. And more run-of-the-mill. The response wasn’t good; it took $200m less than its predecessor worldwide. And I can quite see why. Part III may not be a terrible movie but crucially neither is it a terribly funny one.


For my part, I rather like Part II. I’m not sure why rehashing the premise of the original was considered such a cardinal crime (since most sequels are guilty of the same), and the picture zips along crudely and colourfully. I was unconcerned that the characters weren’t likable; my only demand was for the film to be funny, which it was. So the complaints about the general air of unpleasantness and misanthropy were rather lost on me. It seemed no more offensive than the average US R-rated comedy, and the unsympathetic nature of the Wolf Pack (Alan – Zach Galifianakis, Phil – Bradley Cooper, and Stu – Ed Helms) felt more like a debauched spin on the “learn nothing” premise of Seinfeld than a portend of the downfall of western civilisation.


Part III, shorn of its morning-after set up, has to cast about for another motor to drive its plot. So Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin turn to perceived audience favourite Mr Chow (Ken Jeong). He busts out of a Thai prison, and goes to ground. Crime lord Marshall (John Goodman) is out to get even with Chow, and demands that the Wolf Pack track him down. Doug (Justin Bartha) is held hostage as leverage (so keeping Bartha off screen for most of the movie is retained at least).


Chow’s role in Part II was beefed up, and here he is virtually a fourth member of the Pack. Unfortunately Chow requires decent scenarios if he’s not to become merely a shrill annoyance. There are occasional moments (singing Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt, screaming “I love cocaine” while paragliding, and a cut to him gleefully exclaiming “I’m out of my fucking mind”, just after the Wolf Pack have observed the same thing).


Galifianakis’ shtick is wearing a bit thin by this point also, and his attempts at humour fall mostly flat. Which sort of works in terms of the film’s bleak starting position (following the giraffe incident seen in the trailer, and his father’s death, an intervention is staged; the plan is to take Alan to a rehab facility). But the gags he is given are just lousy (he has a beautiful singing voice). It’s only when Alan meets Cassie (Melissa McCarthy) that Phillips and Mazin find something distinctive for the beardy-weirdy to do, even if the of whacky peas-in-a-pod soul mates subplot is desperately unoriginal.


Cooper and Helms barely register, with the latter’s antagonism towards Alan soon dropped (likewise, the theme that they don’t even really give a shit about Alan seems to have been forgotten by time of the end credits sequence). The former spends his time looking studly and not much else. The attempt to evoke the spirit of the previous movies by featuring an actual hangover during the end credits may barely justify the picture’s title, but it’s has a dreadfully weak “Look what they did this time!” punch line. If that’s the kind of comedy gold they had in reserve, it’s just as well Part III is played mostly straight.


Talking of which, what a complete waste of John Goodman. He’s a brilliantly funny actor so they stick him playing a sullen heavy? It’s nice to see the lovely Heather Graham again, but she only appears for five minutes.  And well done for not finding a place for Mike Tyson (my ears still haven’t recovered from the assault he committed at the end of Part II).


Nevertheless, while I wish they hadn’t gone the route of making a crime picture, the picture itself isn’t unwatchable.  Nor does it outstay its welcome; Phillips has kept each of his pictures around the 100-minute mark, and this is no exception. It’s probably the maximum length you want for a comedy (although, as I’ve said, this isn’t really a comedy... ) Phillips also continues to strive against the point-and-shoot approach found in most comedies. The Hangovers are some of the best looking US comedies around, and the director is consistently visually inventive; he needs to be, as the return to Las Vegas rather inhibits the possibilities (he really shone with the Thai locations in Part II).


So The Hangover Part III takes out the jokes that were the main attraction of the comedy franchise, and it even bypasses the titular physical state during the film proper. The characters have little place left to go, and the focus on Chow is a mistake in as much as it further accentuates these shortcomings. Whatever Phillips did, the critics were going to hate this movie, so it’s a shame he was so stung by Part II’s reception that he threw out the baby with the bath water. Perhaps he just wasn’t inspired to be funny.  It’s hard to say if Part III would have been a bigger hit if it had repeated the formula; I know I’d have been happier, but audiences just weren’t there on opening weekend Perhaps it’s a case where the success of Part II didn’t reflect how it ultimately went down (see also Shrek 2 and Dead Man’s Chest). Or perhaps the public saw the ads and rightly decided the title was a great big fib.


**1/2

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

By whom will this be rectified? Your ridiculously ineffectual assassins?

The X-Files 3.2: Paperclip Paperclip recovers ground after The Blessing Way stumbled slightly in its detour, and does so with some of the series’ most compelling dramatics so far. As well as more of Albert performing prayer rituals for the sick (perhaps we could spend some time with the poor guy over breakfast, or going to the movies? No, all he’s allowed is stock Native American mysticism).

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008) (SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanley was well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley , our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“ too syrupy ”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog.  Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has c

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965) (SPOILERS) One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but I’ll admit that it manages to ensnare me. I don’t think I’d seen the movie in its entirety since I was a kid, and maybe that formativeness is a key brainwashing facet of its appeal, but it retains its essential lustre just the same.