After two movies that were basically comedies with a dose of action, The Hangover Part III shifts into being an action movie with doses of comedy.
Overall, this was not a wise idea. Part III’s body count (both of humans and animals) gives it a sourness that makes the movie overall a bummer even when laughter is echoing in the theater.
The film claims to be wrapping up a trilogy, and it does go back to the roots of the previous films, with the major characters returning to Las Vegas (where the first movie in 2009 was set) and with an early scene in Thailand (setting for the second film). But the activity is focused on two, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) are peripheral to the point that Cooper — so very good in Silver Linings Playbook — reduced his acting commitment to a minimum.
The movie begins with Alan, still such a foul-up that his friends decide it’s time to have an intervention. Stu, Phil and Doug (Justin Bartha) agree to take Alan to treatment in Arizona. But along the way, they are intercepted and taken captive by a bad guy named Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall is looking for the guys’ old acquaintance Chow, who has stolen a fortune in gold bars from him. Marshall takes Doug and vows to kill him if the others do not find Chow and the gold.
The search takes them first to Mexico, and then back to Vegas, and through various crashes, a break-in, an encounter with a pawn-shop owner (Melissa McCarthy) and various gunplay. Chow remains an extreme character. Alan remains stupidly oblivious to the real world. Phil and Stu try to keep things sane, with little success.
There’s really not much more to say. As a comedy, it’s a dud. As an action comedy, it is uneven. If you want to judge it just by the standards of the previous films in the series, it is not on the laugh-hard level of the first one. Part III does improve on The Hangover Part II in its ambition, by trying to come up with a fresh approach to storytelling; II, after all, was pretty much the same as the first Hangover, which was not made with the possibility of a sequel in mind.
But the third Hangover seems to have lost any idea of how to sustain a comedy, its laughs coming only intermittently. A couple of big ones are saved for very late in the movie. But two of the best early ones have been given away in the trailers.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com. including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.