I’m going to throw this out there right now: I hated “The Hangover Part II”. HATED it. I thought it was incredibly lazy filmmaking: just set the first film in Bangkok because that’s a crazier setting than Vegas, then do everything over nearly beat for beat. It was also too self-aware, as sequels can be. You know the characters, so there’s less reliance on the quality of a joke. For example, Alan can eat a piece of poop and we would laugh because it’s Alan… not because it’s funny. Well, I’m probably alone in my feelings for that film because it did extremely well. People wanted more of the same from the Wolfpack. Well, this Memorial Day weekend, those people will be thrown for a loop as Warner Bros. releases “The Hangover Part III” – a much darker installment than anybody could’ve seen coming.
For starters, the film begins with death. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve already seen Alan (Zach Galifianakis) trying to drive under an overpass while hauling a giraffe. I have to say that for as many times as that scene’s been played, it’s still pretty hilarious as you watch the film. But all that aside, this sort of sets the tone for the rest of the film. Mentally unstable and perennially immature Alan is the subject of an intervention after the death of his father. With the rest of the family and the Wolfpack unable to handle his borderline psychotic behaviour they attempt to have him institutionalized. The sad, final journey for Alan, Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) will be a trip to the New Horizons rehabilitation facility.
And that’s when things get crazy.
The fellas are run off the road by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster who has an axe to grind with Chow (Ken Jeong) and Black Doug (Mike Epps), his head of security. Since Alan is the only one who has any ties to Chow, Marshall holds Doug hostage until the Wolfpack can bring him in. What follows is a twisted journey that spans from Tijuana, back to Las Vegas, with Chow returning to the less cuddly version of himself that we saw in the original film. There are wiley double-crosses, vicious murders and plenty of laughs to be had as Phil, Stu and Alan try to ensnare everyone’s favorite little Asian gangster to save their friend.
Plenty of people will surely be turned off by the drastic mood shift in this movie, but it seems like the most logical direction to take things. First, the story directly connects to the first movie. It actually reminds me in some ways of the first three “Karate Kid” films. You have the first movie, which is a Jaden Smith-less masterpiece. The next film brings Daniel and Miyagi to Okinawa for no reason other than the fact that it’s a bigger location. That sequel made tons of money, but it really doesn’t continue the story at all. Then take the poorly received third film – it continues the story of the first and all but ignores the pitstop to Asia. Same here. If this had been “H2″, it would be easier to see the bad choices escalate into the mess of the third. And it pretty much ignores the pitstop to Asia.
This film also doesn’t fall back on your knowledge of the characters to make you laugh – with the exception of Chow signing at a karaoke bar. I’m pretty sure that was thrown in because an executive told director Todd Phillips that that’s what people want to see. Everything about it has a much more organic flow than it’s predecessor. Tijuana is a crazy, lawless place that is so much closer to the Wolfpack’s California starting point, that you can believe they’d go there for some reason instead of “hey, after the last movie, Stu met a different girl than we left him with and her family lives in Thailand… so we’re taking you there.”
But the most important thing was the reintroduction of a main character left out of the second movie… Las Vegas. When these guys return to Sin City, it just feels right. No matter how many ladyboys rape Stu or how many kidneys are missing or how much blow is done in a seedy Thai hotel, none of it feels right unless it’s happening on the strip. And while you’re back in this all too familiar locale with this group of knuckleheads, so much crazy shit of REAL consequence is going on that you really don’t know what to expect. So in a roundabout way, Phillips made the choice to be unpredictable, which is exactly what made the first “Hangover” so brilliant.
“The Hangover Part III” holds 3 out of 4 devils. The filmmakers went double or nothing on this one, rolling the dice on potentially alienating the audience that made the first two films so successful. But if you’re at all like me, you’ll find that it is certainly a huge step up from the last outing. While nothing can touch the original, “H3″ stands out enough not to be a knockoff, but a worthy sequel to one of the greatest comedies of the last twenty years.
And not a ladyboy in sight.