For all the misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and other crimes against humanities that The Hangover franchise has perpetrated since the first film’s release in 2009, there’s been a welcome audience. To decry the films might be appropriate, but it has provided audiences with an outlet to see three reasonably talented actors sift their way through dull material. The pretense of an alcohol-induced fugue state that defined the previous installments is oddly absent in Todd Phillips’ new film. Instead, in a promising change in direction, the triad is left to answer to their misgivings, as Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin underscore much of the film with a sense of mortality and death. It’s by far the most creatively daring thing that Phillips has attempted to do with this series. But unfortunately, it’s all undercut by the same misogyny, the same xenophobia, the same homophobia, and the same blatant disregard for comedic storytelling that plagued the other films.
The spirit that made the original film somewhat tolerable was its binge-drinking-cum-bogus journey. Lightening in a bottle to start, the concept was regurgitated in their second outing to waning critical but outstanding commercial success. This new film recalibrates its focus on the group’s id-incarnate, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). Following an admittedly humorous highway sequence involving the decapitation of a giraffe, Alan’s man-child behavior prompts an intervention. With Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) leading the charge, the group attempts to take Alan to a rehab clinic. But as one would expect, there’s a frantic detour, taking the characters from Mexico and back to Las Vegas.
I’ll commend Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher for capturing a sense of vileness about Sin City. Part and parcel a sell by the cast and crew to illustrate just how morally bankrupt the city can be, it’s the most precise and well-executed aspect of the film. But like its predecessors, the film comes at an impasse as creatively Phillips and Mazin relegate their characters to tired chase sequences and unconvincing stunt work. Mazin, responsible for the dreadful Identity Thief, adopts much of the same stupid physical comedy that marred that film. Phillips, unlike some of his other contemporaries in the realm of comedy, has a better and more astute visual sensibility, having a particular knack for compulsive momentum in the presence of total nonsense. Admirable and at times subversive to expectations, The Hangover Part III simply falters for adhering to the precedence set by the other two films. As a stand-alone film, there might be something to it. But if the closing credits are any indication, creatively, Phillips, Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis were better off with just the first film and calling it a day.