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

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

Just a little whiplash is all.

Duel (1971) (SPOILERS) I don’t know if it’s just me, but Spielberg’s ’70s efforts seem, perversely, much more mature, or “adult” at any rate, than his subsequent phase – from the mid-’80s onwards – of straining tremulously for critical acceptance. Perhaps because there’s less thrall to sentiment on display, or indulgence in character exploration that veered into unswerving melodrama. Duel , famously made for TV but more than good enough to garner a European cinema release the following year after the raves came flooding in, is the starkest, most undiluted example of the director as a purveyor of pure technical expertise, honed as it is to essentials in terms of narrative and plotting. Consequently, that’s both Duel ’s strength and weakness.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Ours is the richest banking house in Europe, and we’re still being kicked.

The House of Rothschild (1934) (SPOILERS) Fox’s Rothschild family propaganda pic does a pretty good job presenting the clan as poor, maligned, oppressed Jews who fought back in the only way available to them: making money, lots of lovely money! Indeed, it occurred to me watching The House of Rothschild , that for all its inclusion of a rotter of a Nazi stand-in (played by Boris Karloff), Hitler must have just loved the movie, as it’s essentially paying the family the compliment of being very very good at doing their very best to make money from everyone left, right and centre. It’s thus unsurprising to learn that a scene was used in the anti-Semitic (you might guess as much from the title) The Eternal Jew .

You are not brought upon this world to get it!

John Carpenter  Ranked For anyone’s formative film viewing experience during the 1980s, certain directors held undeniable, persuasive genre (SF/fantasy/horror genre) cachet. James Cameron. Ridley Scott ( when he was tackling genre). Joe Dante. David Cronenberg. John Carpenter. Thanks to Halloween , Carpenter’s name became synonymous with horror, but he made relatively few undiluted movies in that vein (the aforementioned, The Fog , Christine , Prince of Darkness (although it has an SF/fantasy streak), In the Mouth of Madness , The Ward ). Certainly, the pictures that cemented my appreciation for his work – Dark Star , The Thing – had only a foot or not at all in that mode.

Sleep well, my friend, and forget us. Tomorrow you will wake up a new man.

The Prisoner 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling We want information. In an effort to locate Professor Seltzman, a scientist who has perfected a means of transferring one person’s mind to another person’s body, Number Two has Number Six’s mind installed in the body of the Colonel (a loyal servant of the Powers that Be). Six was the last person to have contact with Seltzman and, if he is to stand any chance of being returned to his own body, he must find him (the Village possesses only the means to make the switch, they cannot reverse the process). Awaking in London, Six encounters old acquaintances including his fiancée and her father Sir Charles Portland (Six’s superior and shown in the teaser sequence fretting over how to find Seltzman). Six discovers Seltzman’s hideout by decoding a series of photographs, and sets off to find him in Austria. He achieves this, but both men are captured and returned to the Village. Restoring Six and the Colonel to their respective bodie

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek , but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.