Howdy do, everyone, it's Papa Vinyard here.
This review originally appeared on my blog.
Todd Phillips gets the Wolfpack back together, and manages to prove that this formula is stale even when it's not replicating the exact same plot of the first one. Not that he doesn’t try: there’s a deadline, Doug (the groom from the first film) gets displaced again, Vegas plays a big part, and there are return appearances from Mike Epps and Heather Graham, absent from Part II. This time the scale is more along the lines of Part II than the original, with an emphasis on crazy action, set-pieces, and near-constant callbacks. I know these guys are funny and talented. And I don’t think the first one was any sort of masterpiece or anything (it’s kinda depressing that these movies are international megahits and Phillips’ Due Date was relatively ignored), but it had a certain verve to it, fueled by the three leads who made their names on their performances in that film. Here, it’s like they’re not even trying. When Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper is straining to make himself seem like an easygoing everyman, you know the jig is up.
The plot pulls an Ocean’s Thirteen and brings the action back home to Vegas, because if there was one problem with Part II, it was its thorough deviation from the plot of the first one. On the way to send Galifinakis’ Alan to rehab (for what is unclear…he’s OFF his meds, and seems like he either needs therapy or, more likely, a straitjacket), the boys get intercepted by John Goodman, who’s looking for their pseudo-buddy Leslie Chow, and the millions in gold Chow stole from him. He takes Justin Bartha’s Doug hostage; thank god, because I was scared they’d be forced to implement the one member of the group we haven’t spent any time with into the shenanigans. Well, needless to say, they find Chow, and of course, his crazy Chinese ass screws them over multiple times, making wrangling the gold off of him a wild, improbably destructive endeavor.
I will say this: Ken Jeong’s Chow remains the funniest part of this franchise. The high point of this trilogy probably remains the moment where the main trio opened that trunk thinking Doug was inside, and naked Dr. Ken jumped out and started beating them mercilessly. Here, he probably gets slightly more screentime than in the other films, but he is still a guest player. The central focus is on Alan, whose daddy issues are lifted directly from Galifinakis’ own role in Due Date, and who, four years after the actor’s rise to fame, just seems kind of annoying and lame now. His love subplot (if you could even call it that) with Melissa McCarthy is so forced and half-assed that it seems like Phillips and Craig Mazin just wrote the role to shoehorn in the increasingly famous comedienne. The less said about the other two “wolves” the better. Their roles have devolved into saying variations on “what the fuck”, “what’s going on”, and “oh my god” at the nutty shit the funnier guys are doing. I remember when I thought Ed Helms’ Stu was the funniest of the trio; here, it really does seem that all he does, as Alan says, is “stand there and look stupid.”
But damn, Jeong makes the most of this role. If you hear interviews with him, he credits every job he’s gotten since ’09 to this franchise, and he is the only one that does not condescend to it for a second. Every line, no matter how minute, is an opportunity for him to embellish it with his accent, make a funny face, or, most amusingly, flail his body around (sometimes nakedly). As bored as I am with the actual Hangovers, I would totally be willing to see a Leslie Chow spinoff, provided they don’t provide him with any kind of bullshit gooey center, and kept feeding him good lines (pun intended) and psychopathic, homicidal moments, punctuated by his gleeful, exaggerated laughter.
Funny jokes or not, Todd Phillips is one of the more technically proficient comedy directors out there, and he shows he’s getting even more fine-tuned here. The opening scene, where Chow breaks out of the Thai prison they left him in after the last film, is actually a pretty exciting bit of action. His use of source music, always a strength, is at an apex here; there is a cocaine-soaked hotel room scene, set to Black Sabbath’s N.I.B., that puts Buddy Israel’s penthouse in Smokin’ Aces to shame. His set pieces, although usually broad and humorless, are pretty grand and well executed, especially compared to his earlier stuff like the car jump in Road Trip and that plummeting, half-naked fat guy in Old School. There’s a parachute sequence where Chow free-jumps off Caesar’s Palace that, complemented by Jeong’s nonsensical one-liners (“We get to die now, finally!”) actually achieves some third-act momentum through sheer spectacle.
But it’s just plain not that super funny. Remember when everyone complained that Due Date was too humdrum, serious, and sad? I thought they were all nincompoops, but that sentimentality almost certainly hurt the film’s box office, so why did Phillips think it was a good idea to transplant that mood here, with the dead daddy bit and all? It almost seems like he’s just as contemptful of the beating of the dead horse that is this series as we are, and is simply earning the last of his massive paychecks so he can go back to the well and do more specific, interesting stuff like Starsky and Hutch or, again, Due Date. They spend so much money on these films, and spend two years each making them. Is it really that hard to get a decent fucking rewrite on a massive comedy property like this these days?
I’m probably overemphasizing the worst aspects of this film. It's not at all laugh-free, it's not a total chore to sit through, and, for a mainstream studio comedy, it is well put-together and often pretty to look at. But honestly, with the kind of attention, money, and hype these movies get, they really should be a hell of a lot funnier, crazier, and more original. Exposed body parts don’t do it anymore. The opening bit with the giraffe is definitely awesome, though. Nasty, amoral, and well-executed mayhem.
Just don’t see this instead of Furious 6, for God’s sake. Please. I can’t imagine the market that would choose this over that.
And where the fuck was Tyson?