Nick Nunziata: There’s a really good gag in The Hangover III during the credits. It evokes all of the best things about the original film and reminds you why the series is such a juggernaut. A great gag and the first time I really laughed in the movie. The problem? It happens during the END credits. That’s how bad this film is, a comedy that eschews comedy in lieu of creating a narrative arc no one wanted, no one needed, and no one will want to rewatch over the years for a good time. Rather than being a no holds barred tale of increasingly weird and dangerous hijinks Todd Phillips’ film tells a crime story built around a tangential character that has become the comedic epicenter of the series. Ken Jeong, a man who has more than worn out his welcome. It’s a crass, unfunny movie that showcases just how far the series has fallen and how power corrupts.
Renn Brown: I stated after the hideous disappointment of The Hangover II that I hoped they’d actually stick with doing the exact same plot again for the next film, except take it all the way to the edge of the cliff. Make it mean and ugly- lost limbs and the like. How great would it be for the final Hangover film to have been truly dangerous, something akin to Observe & Report, for example. Even with the blank check and guaranteed success I suppose that was never really an option, and I figure they figure they did that already with II– even if it was really just a coating of dirt and sweat over the same gags from the first film.
In what seems almost like a spiteful move from Phillips and his crew –and what may well spell out their real attitude towards this whole phenomenon– they have dispensed entirely with the format and virtually all of the running jokes of The Hangover films and instead made a remarkably efficient, tight little crime/heist movie. Remarkably devoid of setups for humor, the film instead leaves all of the comedy to Zach Galafianakis and Ken Jeong. Alan and his off-kilter antics are all that remain of The Hangover– the rest is just Phillips practicing for the dark crime films he’s evidently chomping at the bit to make (he has The Gambler remake setup to follow this film).
What’s funny is he doesn’t actually do a bad job- it’s distinctly more entertaining than the second film, once you let go of the laughs. And then the final 10 minutes kick in, Galafianakis is funnier than he’s been in two films, and Phillips suddenly gives you the finger in the form of all The Hangover comedy you would actually expect to see.
Nick Nunziata: Fuck spite. This isn’t a playground for a heist movie, and frankly if it were sold as a heist movie people would dismiss it immediately. How dumb and gullible these characters are sets them up to deserve anything bad that happens to them. It’s not entertaining. It’s lazy and unfunny and every single actor seems to be experiencing the same joylessness I felt watching it. Galafiankakis seems to be performing under a haze and Ken Jeong’s grating line readings have a hue of indifference to them. Cooper, the strongest point of the first film, if left to carry exposition and react to everything and Ed Helms is a non-factor for much of the film. At least he’s not given a song to sing. The Hangover II was bad. It was a rehash of everything from the first film but it knew it was a comedy and tried to provide audiences with a little of the magic that brought them there. Frankly, though these films are as far from high art as film can get, they had an agenda: to make people laugh and to drop jaws with stuff that people aren’t expecting in terms of shenanigans, poor taste, and the gauntlet of trouble inflicted on the three leads. If Todd Philips wants to make Observe and Report on a studio’s dime that’s fine. But he can’t market it like The Hangover and use Warner Bros’ flagship comedy franchise to do so.
Renn Brown: Jody Hill’s film was just a reference point for what they could have tried in terms of taking the same kind of movie even farther, but it’s not at all what they actually did. I don’t believe Phillips and the cast have any duty to provide any particular kind of movie. There is no coda or honor to what they should or shouldn’t do. Their mission is to entertain and make people laugh by any means necessary, period. Since it wasn’t just critics giving the second film hell for being a carbon copy of the first one, I’m not at all surprised they ditched with the morning-after mystery format. On paper, what they did makes sense: leave the comedy entirely to the two characters –Alan and Chow– that mass audiences most respond to, and package them in a movie Phillips actually wanted to make, riding on the pseudo-dramatic “this is the end” vibe. As insubstantial as this film is, I can only imagine how interminable it would be as yet another rehash of the same script with the requisite celebrity cameo, song and bodily harm from Helms, small creature sidekick, and all the rest.
Nick Nunziata: In all actuality it should have been one film. Had it been, we’d see The Hangover listed in a lot of comedy all-time lists. The lesson comedies never seem to learn is that quirky characters who are funny are funny in moderation. Remember Joe Pesci in the Lethal Weapon movies? Imagine a sequel to Airplane! built around Stephen Stucker’s character. What bothered me most about Alan in this film was his change from an innocent idiot to sort of an actually bad person. The conceit is that he’s off his meds but for a playful character to become sort of a conniving accomplice sort of betrays the goodwill the character accrued from his audience. Alan’s kind of a bad person and coupled with Jeong’s absolutely evil character it truly makes the movie extremely hard to get behind. Worse yet, people die violently in this movie. Abruptly and messily. While there’s plenty of bloodshed in some very funny movies, nobody wants to see that here. The threat of violence is hardwired to the series but this development makes the first sequel look charming in comparison.
Renn Brown: It’s certainly an odd mix, and while I do genuinely admire Phillips filmmaking here, his usual tight control of tone (if not humor) is way off balance here. Not to mention that any credit for trying to change things up comes at bare minimum, as the film isn’t particularly inventive in its new playground, in addition to being funny only sporadically. It’s half-assed, through and through.
There are flashes of Alan that I liked- his arc almost works and Phillips comes up with some nice visual ways of paying it off. Galafianakis also puts a twist on Alan in the film’s final scene that I found hilarious- maybe the funniest Galafianakis has been on screen since the first movie. Considering Galafianakis’ absolutely brilliant humor demonstrated in his stand-up and short-form work has yet to fully translate to the big screen even one time, this was excitingly bittersweet. If only this film had started from that place.
Nick Nunziata: I’m sure expectations play a part here, but even if part three was a rehash there’s nuggets of lowbrow fun to be had. In the heart of summer movie season a big comedy is a vital cog in the machine. This isn’t that cog and with proven talents like John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy added to the mix the film should simply be better. Much better. The end credits gag hurts things because it is sort of like a jab from the filmmakers to the audience that has treated them so well. The Hangover III is an awful movie. I’m glad it’s the end and we have the career of Bradley Cooper to thank for it, so it’s been a worthwhile journey in the grand scheme.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Renn Brown: There’s nothing here to defend. I genuinely appreciate that the franchise didn’t go out with another limp retread and tried to do something, but it’s all so weak. Everyone will move on with fatter pockets, perhaps with Phillips finally landing on the right kind of movies for his sensibilities. Or perhaps not- the well will always be there. Maybe in five years they’ll decide it’s time to go back to Vegas, and maybe there will actually be some comedy to find there.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars