Zach Galifianakis is as funny as ever but The Hangover Part III is a letdown. It takes just two mediocre sequels to erase all the belly laughs and great times from Todd Phillips’ raunchy road comedy The Hangover (2009) and spark a sliver of doubt that maybe just maybe, Zach Galifianakis and his Wolfpack buds aren’t as funny as we remember.
Phillips keeps saying that The Hangover Part III is the last in the popular buddy comedy franchise, which means that the series is going out with a whimper instead of a laugh-out-loud bang. Really, the Wolfpack and moviegoers deserve better.
Granted, Phillips and writer Craig Mazin (Hangover Part II) rocket the movie to life with opening sequences including a hilarious Bangkok prison break from criminal mad man Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and bushy man-child Alan (Galifiabakis) driving home with his newly purchased giraffe and arguing with his father (Jeffrey Tambor) when his giraffe buy goes terribly wrong.
Unfortunately, right after those two standout gags, the third Wolfpack adventure spins off course and loses originality early into the movie as Alan and his buds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) cross paths with a mysterious criminal named Marshall (John Goodman) who takes Doug hostage and forces the remaining friends to find Chow. Actually, Marshall wants the Wolfpack to retrieve the gold Chow stole from him and he’ll kill Doug if they don’t succeed.
Phillips replaces Bangkok exotica from the previous installment with a quick trip to Tijuana and a climactic showdown in the Vegas stomping grounds from the first adventure. Despite all the potential for raunchy comedy, the movie fails to spark to life.
Galifianakis blends childlike innocence, immature bursts of anger and a risky embrace of slapstick as Alan. He’s the highlight reel of the movie. Galifianakis’ scenes with Bradley Cooper’s Phil are fun, warm and affectionate, so much so one wishes Phillips would have ditched the other buds and offered an Alan and Phil adventure for the third movie.
Cooper’s recent performance in Silver Linings Playbook confirms just how funny he can be. His work in the current drama The Place Beyond the Pines reminds us how good he is at drama. His third Wolfpack adventure is a sober reminder that average storytelling will keep Cooper’s talents in check.
Ed Helms suffers the same fate of watching his natural comic talents crumble under the weight of a predictable script. Justin Bartha finds himself shoved to the sidelines (again). Heather Graham, who played Jade in the first installment, returns with little impact.
Ken Jeong enjoys the best slapstick stunts, including an aerial adventure over the Las Vegas Strip and the raunchiest dialogue and he’s always up to task. Like Galifianakis, Jeong is a comic powerhouse who’s almost impossible to keep in check although the movie does a good job.
Only Melissa McCarthy shines in every scene as the owner of a Vegas pawnshop who falls for Alan. Perhaps one answer to the film’s many problems would have been introducing McCarthy’s character early into the movie and making her an unexpected addition to the Wolfpack.
As the final Wolfpack adventure sluggishly winds down it’s amazing to calculate just how few raunchy gags and gross-out laughs take place in the movie. Is it possible that Phillips is experiencing a sudden twinge of good taste in a comedy franchise that thrives on bad taste?
There’s one more thing to remember. Just like a Marvel Studios movie, Phillips unfolds one last sight gag after the closing credits hinting at a final night of debauchery and a morning after nightmare for the straight-laced Stu. It’s really not fair. That closing gag hints at more laughs than just took place in the entire movie.
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