The Hangover Part III – ★★

Four years ago, scores of audiences were reduced to fits of laughter by Todd Phillips’ hysterical comedy The Hangover (2009) which became a box-office smash and even won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical. It’s success garnered a sequel in 2011 which rehashed the original film’s plot but switched its setting to Bangkok yet was considered underwhelming to a majority of people. However with the amount of big bucks made from those two films, Phillips has opted to round off his booze-filled franchise with a concluding installment that brings the wolf pack and friends back for one last adventure….

SYNOPSIS: Following the death of his dad, dysfunctional Alan (Zach Galifianakis) heads towards a nervous breakdown much to the concern of his fellow Wolfpackers Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha). They decide to intervene by offering to drive Alan to a rehabilitation clinic in Arizona so he can get better. However their car journey is rudely interrupted by crime boss Marshall (John Goodman) who demands to find Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) after he stole $20 million worth of gold from him. After Doug is taken hostage, the remaining Wolf pack members are forced to track down Chow and the gold in order to ensure their friend survives.

Trying to better the first film of a trilogy with a third outing is always a difficult task for most franchises (with the exception of Lord of the Rings and Toy Story) especially when the second one is disappointing. That trend continues to show here as our hapless trio find themselves in familiar territory even with the narrative being different to its predecessors. However the comedy basis is whittled down this time around as the ‘hangover’ formula gets shafted in favour of a darker tone with a predictable plot-line involving another crime boss and some nostalgia being thrown in. Though the stakes may be higher on this occasion, you never feel as though you’re rooting for the characters to achieve their goal especially when Doug is kidnapped and feels like a missed opportunity to do something fresh with these individuals. While The Hangover Part II was criticised for repeating the original film’s story, it still brought laughs aplenty but here, the lack of surprise and mystery is what hurts the film. This can mostly be blamed on Warner Bros’ decision to over-promote it by practically giving away most of the plot in the trailers (always the case with films these days!) as well as revealing most of the funny jokes which is bound to frustrate audiences hoping for some unforeseen moments to savour. While there had to be some subtlessness to the finale, it feels more monotone in this installment in which the biggest laughs unfortunately come in the post-credits scene as the ‘hangover’ predicament makes one more appearance though you get the impression it has come a little too late. It’s also a shame to see the film’s talented group of actors (including recent Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper) having to make use of a mediocre script despite the great chemistry they have together as nothing in this story helps grow these characters from what we know of them already. Yet again we have another villain with a criminal background that lacks any development or even tension which is such a waste of John Goodman’s versatile experience. The ‘Wolfpack’ actors may still have the witty banter but most of these moments are easily forgotten as some of the jokes and set-pieces fall flat especially in Alan’s case. After causing chaos on the motorway with his pet giraffe (one of several animals to suffer in this film) and making tasteless remarks at his dad’s funeral, we never see enough progression in his character until the last quarter when he falls in love with fellow nut-job Cassie (Bridemaids actress Melissa McCarthy) but their scenes together feel forced and slow the film down. Lastly we come to the Asian caricature that is Ken Jeong and his iconic character Mr Chow. With his screen-time being extended, he becomes much more unbearable and while there is more deceit to him in the later scenes with the wolf pack, the irritating accent and silly behaviour just proves why he shouldn’t have been promoted to a more central figure in the series.

However it’s not all doom and gloom for fans of this franchise as the nostalgic throwbacks feature prominently. Most elements from the original are re-introduced to bring the trilogy together whether it be the return to Las Vegas or the involvement of former actors like Mike Epps as Black Doug and the luminous Heather Graham whose character Jade makes a small appearance alongside little Carlos. It is this actual scene that becomes the most genuine of the film as Alan bonds with the toddler and allows Zach Galifianakis to display some emotion that enables him to stand out more as an actor. The on-screen partnership he shares with co-stars Cooper and Helms has always worked well throughout the trilogy as the trio make some sort of effort with the dialogue given to them (even if it looks obvious that they’re not interested in being in it). It’ll be a shame not to see the ‘three best friends’ back in action but none of them can be faulted for the performances they have given over the years despite the woes of this turnout.

VERDICT: While the actors try their hardest, the Wolfpack’s final outing is a damp squib with a lack of laughs and never really succeeds in being anything more than a way to cleanly tie up loose ends. Goodbye bitches, you should never have to got to a third film ….

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