Hangover Part III

By Jeff Farr

Is it already time for another “Hangover”? Two years after “The Hangover Part II” (2011), here’s “Part III,” which has been advertised as the finale to this increasingly unfocused series.

While “Part II” had its moments, it wasn’t nearly as much fun as the original. It also stuck so closely to the first film’s template that it wound up more of a remake than any kind of expansion or extension.

Director Todd Philips and writer Craig Mazin are back for the last chapter, and the low-energy, oddly subdued “Part III” definitely continues this unfunny trajectory. While Philips thankfully ditches the template and much of the raunch, he offers nothing else in their place. This “Hangover” comes off as defanged and declawed and undecided about where it wants to go. Many fans will be scratching their heads: What the heck happened here?

The trio of central characters—Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis)—were mostly lost in the chaos of the previous installment. This time, Philips tries to foreground Alan and Wolf Pack associate Chow (Ken Jeong), leaving Helms and Cooper to basically stand around waiting for something to happen.

But neither Alan nor Chow is as entertaining as Philips might think: Alan isn’t given anything memorable to say, not one great line, and Chow continues to be an offensively cartoonish stereotype.

Philips means to show the childlike Alan finally growing up, but the director’s attempts to insert something serious or tender into this mess are painfully awkward—see, for instance, Alan’s weird reunion with the baby from the first movie, now a young boy (Grant Holmquist).

The meandering story begins with Alan purchasing and accidentally decapitating a pet giraffe. This leads to his anguished father (Jeffrey Tambor) having a fatal heart attack, and the Wolf Pack reassembling for the funeral.

It becomes clear to everyone that Alan, off his meds and no longer able to rely on his dad, has become unhinged. An intervention’s staged, and the Wolf Pack’s soon back on the road: They’re taking Alan from Los Angeles to a rehab facility in Arizona.

Before they can arrive at their destination, however, they’re ambushed by a gang wearing pig masks, led by bad guy Marshall (John Goodman). He’s after Chow, who’s stolen millions in gold from him.

So the trio must apprehend and turn over the missing Chow or their buddy Doug (Justin Bartha) will be executed by Marshall. A long and uninteresting diversion to Tijuana, where Chow has stashed gold bars in a hilltop villa, eats up much of the movie. Philip turns the Wolf Pack’s clumsy attempt at a home invasion—with Stu and Chow for some reason pretending to be dogs—into the most tedious set piece of the entire series.

Things come full circle as the Wolf Pack returns to the scene of the original crime, Las Vegas, to capture the slippery Chow, who’s living it up in Caesars Palace.

Like “Part II,” “Part III” feels slapped together, as if much of it were written the night before it was shot. Philips has been going for a guys-night-out vibe and using that as an excuse to subject audiences to these poorly conceived exercises in white male insecurity. “Part III” proves itself to be the sloppiest and by far dullest of the bunch.

The supporting cast, including Goodman, Mike Epps, Heather Graham, and even Melissa McCarthy, as a romantic interest for Alan, aren’t given the chance to help improve things much.

Four years after “The Hangover,” Helms, Cooper, and Galifianakis—especially Cooper, who was nominated for Best Actor for “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)—have all seen their stars rise considerably. At this point, they’re all probably ready to move on. And audiences are likely going to feel the same way: It’s time to grow up, not just for Alan, for all of us. Another “Hangover” would be a horrible mistake.

P.S. If you go, there’s a second ending during the final credits that tries to recapture the raunch. An audience member next to me muttered, “It should’ve been like this….”