Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis, Ken Jeong
Running Time: 100 minutes
Release Date: May 23
It’s a general rule of thumb that a third entry into a franchise—a threequel, if you will—rarely trumps what came before. There are more than enough examples to highlight the point; Return of the Jedi, Men In Black 3, The Godfather Part III. That said, however, there are those entries that skirt the middle ground in terms of quality, neither topping what came before nor lowering that which spawned it. The Dark Knight Rises, Return of the King and The Last Crusade all are more than effective at rounding out the trilogy.
The Hangover was an unexpected hit. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifinakis were all upcoming stars, brought under the direction of comedy veteran Todd Phillips. The formula wasn’t exactly inventive, but everyone was trying their best. Todd Phillips was recovering from the commercial/critical flop, School For Scoundrels, Bradley Cooper and Co. were out to prove themselves in leading roles. Now, in the third instalment, it’s clear to all and sundry that everyone has moved on.
The man-child Alan (Zach Galifinakis) is spiraling out of control and is off his meds. In one particularly brutal scene involving a giraffe and a motorway sign, Alan is confronted by his father (Jeffrey Tambor) who suffers a heart attack mid-argument. The group agree that it’s better for Alan to stay at a mental institute. En-route, they’re kidnapped by Las Vegas mobster Marshall (John Goodman) who tells them that Chow (Ken Jeong) has escaped prison in Thailand. Unsurprisingly, Doug (Justin Bartha) is held hostage while the others are ordered to find Chow and bring him back. It’s an interesting enough premise and it’s clear that Phillips is trying to break the mould with this third instalment. However, the reality is is that there shouldn’t have been a sequel or a threequel. The first Hangover worked perfectly on its own. It was neat and lean and had a wholly-contained story. There was no room from pushing it out beyond itself, and yet, here we are.
It’s clear that Bradley Cooper has grown in stature and ability since the first Hangover. Anyone who’s seen The Place Beyond the Pines and Silver Linings Playbook will know that Cooper is finally coming into his own. Galifinakis and Helms haven’t had the same luck, career-wise, but both are happily ploughing their own furrow. When brought together for this, it’s clear the chemistry is still there and it’s infectiously funny to watch them squabble and bicker amongst themselves. Nothing in their interactions is forced or unnatural, yet everything outside of it—the plot, the premise—is the exact opposite.
Ken Jeong’s role is expanded to a greater degree this time around; something that could have saved the second film from its fate. As chaos personified, Jeong’s one-liners and general terrorising is funny in places, but it relies heavily on shock value. It can be tiresome, but the film has a brisk pace that means you can’t focus on it for too long. Goodman’s role is pretty much exposition and it’s a real shame. He’s proven time and again that he is a capable comedic actor that can do these smaller roles. Here, however, he’s criminally underused and the film is lesser for it.
Each of the posters and the official synopsis all underline the fact that this is the end of the trilogy. Going in, you’re looking forward to seeing them tie up the story and finally draw a line underneath it. There’s a sense of freedom in that, that they can go anywhere with it as there’ll be nothing beyond it. However, as the films wears on, it becomes clear that this isn’t the end. In fact, the final five minutes of the film state this in unequivocal terms and that feels like a cheat to the audience. Phillips’ attempt to move the comedy towards action-comedy works for the most part, however it goes into some very dark territory that essentially falls flat. Overall, The Hangover 3 is reasonably entertaining if you approach it with lowered expectations.