Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 2, 2013)
Back in 2009, The Hangover became a legitimate out-of-nowhere smash, as it turned into the highest-grossing “R”-rated comedy of all-time. 2011’s Hangover Part II did almost nearly as well, so all involved came back to finish the “trilogy” with 2013’s The Hangover Part III.
With a gross of $112 million in the US, it’d be tough to call Part III a genuine flop, but given the expectations set up by the first two films, it certainly offered a big disappointment. Part III made less than half of Part II’s gross and likely put a stake in the franchise’s heart. Sure, its creators claimed they intended it to end the series anyway, but I suspect stronger box office receipts might’ve changed their minds; since the flick disappointed in so many ways, I think we’ve seen the last of the “Wolf Pack”.
At least this one shows some creativity compared to Part II. The latter was more remake than sequel, while Part III goes on a different path.
In a prologue, we see gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) – a major complicating factor in the first two movies – escape from a Thai prison. From there we head back to the States to reunite with man-child Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis) as he struggles to mature. The spoiled rich “kid” causes a major news headache when he purchases a giraffe and inadvertently decapitates it.
Alan’s irresponsible behavior launches his father Sid (Jeffrey Tambor) onto a tirade that kills him; as he lectures his son, the elder Garner keels over from a heart attack. This seems to accelerate Alan’s slide and leads to even more out of control behavior.
Eventually Alan’s friends stages an intervention and he agrees to go for treatment – as long as fellow “Wolf Pack” members Stu Price (Ed Helms), Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Doug Billings (Justin Bartha( go there with him. They take a road trip that leads to complications due to their connection to Chow.
It turns out that Alan corresponded with Chow while the latter resided in jail and may know where Leslie currently hides. Mobster Marshall (John Goodman) abducts the “Wolf Pack” guys and demands that they find Chow because Leslie stole from him. If they don’t bring back Chow so Marshall can reclaim his money, he’ll kill Doug. Crazy shenanigans ensue.
As you may note, that synopsis offers no mention of any hangovers in The Hangover Part III. That may seem odd, as the prior stories were built around misadventures caused by excessive intoxication. Is a hangover-free Hangover story a logical extension of the franchise?
In my opinion, yes. As I mentioned, Part II often felt like a regurgitation of the first film; though I actually enjoyed it more than the debut, I can’t claim it did anything especially original. It stretched credulity to make the same guys experience the same sorts of events a second time; a third movie in which the guys get blotto, do inappropriate things and have to retrace their steps would've been tiresome, so I’m glad Part III went in a different direction.
Though some other aspects of it might seem too different to many fans. While the first two focused on the three members of the “Wolf Pack”, Stu and Phil often feel like afterthoughts here, and the supporting character of Chow becomes a lead. That creates an unusual balance that may seem out of whack to fans.
Since I was never much of a “fan”, though, the change doesn’t bother me, and I must admit I think the end result works fairly well. Many fans hated the flick, so I might be the only one, but I thought Part III was moderately enjoyable - not great, but a lot better than its reputation indicates.
Honestly, I think the series improved as it went along. As I noted, I didn't like much about the first one, and I wasn't wild about the first sequel, but I felt it improved on the original.
For me, Part III becomes easily the best of the bunch. It largely dispenses with the cheesy gross-out humor of the first two, and without the “hangover” conceit, it enjoys a thematic and comedic freedom absent from the others.
It really is a fairly substantial departure from the first two, and maybe that's why a lot of people dislike it. Like I said, the gross-out humor's gone, and we get a lot more subtle gags. I'll always prefer small jokes over broad ones, so that makes Part III more appealing to me.
While it still comes with some pretty wild bits, it provides a lot of comedic asides that don't call attention to themselves, whereas the first two tended to go for "in your face" moments. I like the more subdued feel of Part III - well, subdued for a Hangover movie – and feel it comes with a reasonable number of laughs.
I continue to feel sorry for Justin Bartha, though. As seen in the National Treasure flicks, he has good comedic talent, but he's stuck with a dud role in all three of these movies. He's a plot device, not a character, and the role wastes his skills.
The Hangover Part III never threatens to become a comedy classic, but it kept me interested and entertained across its 100 minutes. It certainly amused me more than the first two combined.