Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Hangover Part 3 - Theatrical Review

Release Date:

'The Hangover Part 3' switches up its formula for a drastically different experience.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: AMC 30 Orange
Time: 10:00 pm May 22, 2013   
Projector Type: Digital 2D  
Film Rating: R  
Film Runtime: 1 hr 41 min
Studio: Warner Bros.

Loves: Nothing really
Likes: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms
Neutral: The Hangover, The Hangover Part 2
Hates: Zack Galifianakis, Ken Jeong
The Hangover Part 4?: There are plenty of doors left open for another hangover

The "Hangover" trilogy is a bizarre, unstable and very sloppy series of films. The first one was a shot in the dark, a unique premise for a comedy that just seemed to click with audiences everywhere and went on to make a boat load of money. It's sequel tried to capitalize on its success by doing everything over again but in a different location, and despite being a financial success, it wasn't what fans were looking for. Now with the third (and final) installment to the franchise, the series takes its most drastic turn yet by ditching the whole hangover formula for a surprisingly inspired final act to this make-shift trilogy.

Picking up a few months after the events of the second film, we pick up with our pals Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zack Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) where after a tragedy strikes Alan, the wolf pack comes together for an intervention to get him some much needed (and long overdue) help. On their road trip to Alan's potential new home in Arizona the friends are attacked and taken hostage by a man named Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall wants back his money that their unfortunate friend Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) stole and only they know how to find him after his breakout from his Thailand prison cell. Using Doug's life as incentive, Marshall forces the wolf pack to find Chow and get back his money.

First off, this has to be one of the most convoluted excuses for a sequel in some time. Introducing elements and characters that had never existed before (except Black Doug (Mike Epps) that is) in any of the previous films is as lazy as a screenwriter can get. But surprisingly, once the exhaustive exposition is covered and we are up to speed on what the situation is, the film transforms into an interesting twist on the series' well established formula. Instead of having the wolf pack get drugged up, passed out and going on a scavenger hunt for clues as to what happened the night before, we actually get to witness it all first hand...sans the drugs...sort of.

This twist on the formula is likely going to upset fans of the series, especially those who not only have come to expect the formula but by those who liked the series only because of said formula. But for the few out there who wanted something different from the second film and were left underwhelmed by its retread storyline, "The Hangover Part 3" may catch your interest again. This is especially true with the much darker tone this film has that the second one only ever hinted at.

Fun and games are over, people die this time around and that's not all. The character of Chow has always been a loose cannon, an unpredictable wild card, but here you get a sense that there are some real demons inside that crazy head of his. Now, this isn't to say that we get revelations about Chow's past, or any of the characters for that matter, but his character and Alan's actually have some much needed meat to them this time around and Chow in particular shows a much darker side than ever before.

Unfortunately the others are relegated to plot devices for the most part. Stu (who got his story told in the second film) is there for his well timed reactions to Alan's insanity, Phil is more or less the muscle and action guy and Doug once again is taken out of the picture nearly immediately. Luckily for us though there is enough going on that most of that remains unnoticeable unless you are really looking out for such stuff (and if you are then you are watching the wrong film).

As mentioned, the story isn't anything to write home about but that isn't to say that it is dumb. Quite the contrary actually. The writers did find a few ways to keep the audience on their toes, with one reveal that was completely unexpected and shocking that will have you rewinding events in your head to make sure they weren't pulling a fast one on you (hint: they didn't). They even find some clever ways to bring back some old characters from the first film and even take the action back to Vegas for the finale which seemed more than a fitting locale to end this story at.

The problems most will have with the film overall is its shift in tone and that there isn't actually a hangover that takes place (although you should stick around during the credits). Coming from someone who never found the first film all that hilarious and only liked the second one because of its choice of location, it is strange to write this, but this third chapter ended up being a whole lot more entertaining than expected and could possibly be the strongest entry into the series. Those changes to the formula may not sit well with fans but it opened new doors to tell a story with these characters from a different perspective which was a brave and bold move on director Todd Phillips part, and one that paid off.

As for whether or not this is a fitting end to the series, that is difficult to say really. It's actually a miracle of sorts that this has spawned into a series to be honest. But it gives each of the characters as appropriate enough send off as one would expect (these guy's lives have never gotten much attention and that doesn't really change here) and Alan, who had been the weird one for each film gets to have an actual character arc that is run through to completion which was nice. As far as a recommendation goes, if you are or ever have been a fan of the franchise then this is a mild recommendation. It gets points for switching things up and ending the series on a high note, but when it comes down to it there still aren't enough laughs to fully endorse it for those looking for a fun comedy.





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