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Thursday
May232013

The Hangover Part III

Years from now, when people discuss the best comedies of this generation, I fully expect 2009’s “The Hangover” to feature prominently in their conversation. Although it certainly had its detractors, it was widely found to be quite funny, a consensus made by both the movie going public and the critic community. Its sequel, which can more appropriately be called a remake, was less successful in terms of quality because comedy requires the element of surprise to work and surprises were few and far between due to recycled jokes and plot lines. This week’s “The Hangover Part III” abandons the narrative structure of the previous films and successfully sets itself apart. Unfortunately, it’s one of the only things it’s successful at doing.

This time, the boys don’t have anything crazy planned. They have moved past the events from the previous two movies and are content with their lives, that is except for Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who tries to fill his emptiness with things like the purchasing of a giraffe, which he promptly and accidentally decapitates soon after. His wild life has led Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to stage an intervention. This convinces Alan to enter rehab to get his life under control, but on the way, a drug kingpin named Marshall (John Goodman) rams them off the road. It turns out Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has stolen over $20 million in gold from him. Mr. Chow’s whereabouts are unknown since his escape from a prison near Bangkok, so he figures the Wolfpack may be able to find him. He takes Doug hostage and gives the trio three days to get his money back. Otherwise, Doug is dead.

The most common criticism that “The Hangover Part II” received was that it followed too closely to its predecessor. It’s a fair complaint, but it’s also understandable. Director Todd Phillips had something special with the first movie, a comedy that fired on all cylinders, provided plenty of laughs, had likable characters and a story with an intriguing mystery at its core. To want to recreate that magic a second time is perfectly reasonable, even if it did ultimately fail. But “The Hangover Part III” is another beast altogether. It does nothing but coast by on the franchise name and star power of its leads. It has no material to sustain a full length movie, only the thinnest of paper thin plots to move it along and jokes that oftentimes can hardly be considered such.

The jokes this time come at a far less frequent pace (and legitimate laughs even less so). Large chunks of the movie go by with nary a joke in sight, the only humorous moments coming from Galifianakis’ goofy demeanor and not from a witty script. This comes as no surprise since Galifianakis is the only one even trying, the others merely coasting by for the paycheck, clearly uninterested in what’s going on, but it’s a futile attempt. Galifianakis’ character was always written as the dimwitted one, the one that spoke before thinking, but his simplemindedness from the previous movies has now devolved into outright cruelty. Few would argue that the characters were walking examples of morality in the other movies, but much of their meanness came from name calling and harsh jokes among themselves, a normal occurrence between male friends. Here, the characters spill glasses on purpose for the house maid to clean up, verbally abuse old ladies in motorized wheelchairs and talk poorly to their mothers, to the point where Alan even wishes his mother dead.

Cruelty does not equate to comedy, a revelation made clear by recent debacles like “Bachelorette” and “Project X,” yet that’s nearly all “The Hangover Part III” has to offer. What little actual jokes it does have are unfunny or rehashes of other familiar jokes, like the model building joke from “Zoolander.” Its locations—prisons, funerals and interventions, just to name a few—simply aren’t ripe for comedy and very few movies with similar settings pull it off (the 2007 British film “Death at a Funeral” being a standout exception).

Although I’m sure many will prefer this narratively new film over the rehash that was “Part II,” this is nevertheless far worse. At least “Part II” tried. It was a lazy attempt, but it had a desire to be funny. This has no comedic flow or energy and laughs are scarce. What’s worse, the focus on Alan and Mr. Chow relegates both Stu and Phil to sidekicks who are given little to do. “The Hangover Part III” is a comedic abomination and, as a third entry to one of the funniest movies in recent memory, a colossal disappointment.

The Hangover Part III receives 1/5

Tuesday
May242011

The Hangover Part II

There’s nothing wrong with a sequel sticking to its predecessor’s formula. Besides, if the first movie was popular, then it had to have done something correctly. Still, sequels should take the foundation of the original and build upon it, making it better. You have to be careful, though, because there’s a fine line between doing that and simply rehashing. To say a movie is “a rehash” is a movie critic cliché, but never has the word been more appropriate than with The Hangover Part II. Years from now, when critics are bashing a worthless sequel that does nothing but replay out the events of the original again, they’ll refer to this movie and justifiably so. So I guess the question is should you see it? You already have.

In the original film, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) wake up with memory loss, unable to recall the night before. In the sequel, Phil, Stu and Alan wake up with memory loss, unable to recall the night before. Only this time, Stu is the one getting married, not Doug (Justin Bartha). Oh, and they’re in Thailand. Totally different.

The Hangover Part II, quite literally, is The Hangover repackaged in a different area and with a few new faces. It begins like the first movie, with Phil explaining that they won’t be able to make it back for the wedding, and then it proceeds forward with the guys trying to find clues as to the whereabouts of their lost friend, this time a guy named Teddy (Mason Lee). It follows the exact same path as the original film, straight down to the comedic situations the trio finds itself in, only with slight differences. When they wake up, they find a monkey in the room rather than a tiger. Stu now has a face tattoo rather a missing tooth. When they think they’ve found the missing person, it turns out to be someone else. It even goes so far as to recite at least half a dozen jokes from the original film verbatim. If it’s possible for a franchise sequel to inadvertently remake the original, The Hangover Part II has done it.

Considering that this movie has almost the exact same runtime as the first, I’m considering conducting an experiment to see if they match up. The two films are so similar I wouldn’t be surprised if they both hit the same narrative beats at the same time. Still, this beyond lazy approach to storytelling would be okay if the film produced constant laughs, but it doesn’t. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some good jokes; they were just funnier the first time I heard them two years ago. Because of its recurring, well, everything, The Hangover Part II comes off like a smug prank, one that is aiming to see just how much money it can steal from movie going patrons by showing the same thing.

There is nearly nothing in this vapid slapdash of a film worth noting. Its screenplay, when not a copy and paste job, fails even on the most basic levels. In their first adventure, the clues to Doug’s whereabouts came from clever writing that gave them just enough information to keep them moving forward. Here they come from arbitrary means. After arriving at a Buddhist monastery with nowhere left to go, I kid you not, Alan meditates, has a vision and discovers their next destination. It was like the writers couldn’t figure out how to credibly move the guys from place to place, so they deemed it unnecessary and simply forgot about it.

It’s rare to see such a large drop in quality from film to film in a franchise. While some are certainly better than others, a sequel that fails to live up to the excellent original is usually still pretty good, but that certainly isn’t the case this time. The Hangover made my best of the year list back in 2009, but its sequel is dangerously close to becoming one of this year’s worst.

The Hangover Part II receives 1.5/5