You know that old joke that you sometimes make when someone asks you, "What did you think of [MOVIE X]?" And often the response is, "Well, it's a movie." Oh, how we laugh at that chestnut. Here's the thing: I'm not sure THE HANGOVER PART III is actually a movie. I'll explain as best I can, but I walked out of this hopefully final chapter in the "Wolfpack trilogy" utterly baffled by what I'd just seen.
I laughed exactly two times in the entire 100 minutes or so, so I'm pretty sure that doesn't qualify it as Comedy. But the primary thrust of the film doesn't appear to be to induce laughter; it's more action oriented and features a plot that isn't about piecing together some period of time. But the action sequences are so run of the mill (especially when you stack them up again this week's FAST & FURIOUS 6) that it doesn't exactly fit the bill for Action.
What's left? Drama? There's a little of that in there when Alan (Zach Galifianakis) must cope with the death of his loving father (who basically died because of the stress Alan placed in his life). There's a sequence in which Alan is left alone with a young boy, who also is living without his real father. It should be something of a tender moment, but I was so concerned that Alan was going to start molesting or otherwise being inappropriate with the kid that I couldn't take the emotional content of the scene seriously.
While we're digging into characters here, THE HANGOVER series has shifted since it began in 2009. I'm still not in any way convinced that Bradley Cooper (who plays Phil) has any semblance of comic ability beyond saying "Fuck" constantly. "What the fuck was that?" "Who the fuck are you?" "How the fuck did that happen?" "Fuck that guy" and the classic "Fuck you." That's pretty much all the ammo in his machine gun of laughs.
Then there's Ed Helms as Stu, who has always been relegated to the position of straight man, but the stuff that has happened to the mild-mannered dentist is so outrageous that Helms has been able to make the most of the thankless role. But in PART III, nothing happens to him (unless you count a during-credits sequence, which you must because it provided one of the two times I laughed), and I mean nothing. It's like he's there for the vibe but not his proven comic gift.
So what's left? Zach Galifianakis is carrying almost all of the laugh-generation duties on his ample shoulders; no one can accuse him of not working his ass off to bring this limp screenplay by director Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin (the writer of such classics as SCARY MOVIE 3 and 4, SUPERHERO MOVIES, IDENTITY THIEF, and THE HANGOVER PART II—do with that what you will) to something resembling life.
And then there's Ken Jeong as the psychotic Mr. Chow. I'm the most torn about this character, but not really. My affection for Dr. Jeong runs deep, but I also think it has hit its limits. I know that Chow had something of an expanded role in PART II, but he barely leaves the screen in PART III, and it turns out that there is such a thing as too much Chow. It's mainly the voice that makes me want to push nails in my ears, but there just isn't enough for him to do. At at some point near the halfway point of the film (probably around the 27th time he offered to blow somebody), I started to tune him out.
Perhaps not surprisingly, THE HANGOVER PART III seems a bit more energized when there are new players on screen, such as John Goodman's crime boss Marshall and especially Melissa McCarthy as Cassie, a pawn shop owner and potential love interest for Alan. McCarthy dials things back a bit, and the results provided me with laugh number two. The film also brings back a couple of supporting characters from the first film, and you won't give a shit. Maybe the worst crime the film commits is returning the action to Las Vegas for not good reason. The characters don't want to be there, the audience certainly doesn't want to be there, and after a couple of moderately thrilling action sequences, everybody leaves like it never mattered...because it doesn't.
I haven't talked too much about the plot. The contrivance to bring the group back together is to take Alan to a home/hospital in Arizona for mentally ill people so he can get back on his meds and come back more normal. But on the way there, Marshall forces the Wolfpack to find Chow and bring back gold that was stolen from him by Chow. Marshall kidnaps Justin Bartha's Doug (thus yanking him out of the proceedings once again) as incentive to get the job done. And that's pretty much it. So although memory loss isn't a part of this story, retrieving Doug still is. Way to mix it up, team.
So back to my original point, if you can figure out what exactly THE HANGOVER PART III qualifies as, you let me know. Or better yet, keep it to yourself. If you run out to see this film over the weekend, I don't need to hear from you.