Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis in "The Hangover Part… (Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner…)
True to its title, "The Hangover Part III" has left many film critics wishing they'd abstained from the R-rated comedy's destructive misadventures.
Those keeping score will recall that the first "Hangover" was an unexpected hit in 2009, while the Bangkok-set second installment was derided as a tired retread. "Part III" tweaks the premise of its predecessors: This time, the trio played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis don't black out during a drug-fueled pre-wedding mishap, but rather are forced by a gangster to commit their infamous hijinks. According to reviewers, however, it just makes for another headache.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey scolds that whoever is responsible for the film "should be made to pay. Or forced to suffer the fate of the giraffe in the ubiquitous trailers — the one whose long, lovely neck won't clear the low clearance bridge."
The first mistake, Sharkey says, was getting rid of the original writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Craig Mazin and director Todd Phillips wrote this one, and it features too much of Ken Jeong's character, Chow (he's "much better in very small doses"), and a meaner, less enjoyable Wolfpack (as the central trio has come to be known). In the end, Chow and the film itself are both "indescribably irritating and only in it for the money."
Claudia Puig of USA Today agrees that "this sequel makes a major tactical error by focusing excessively on the most outlandish — and least comical — character from the previous films" (the aforementioned Chow). She continues: "It's more a road movie with action elements than a comedy, and the debauchery of the first two films is missing." Those changes notwithstanding, "Nothing about this rote exercise feels remotely fresh. It's a re-tread of the 2009 original, sans the inspired lunacy."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe acknowledges that this third installment "doesn’t bother to Xerox the original 2009 hit comedy.… Instead, the new movie heads in different, if utterly formulaic, directions. So it’s not terrible. It’s just bad." Though there are a few cameos by folks from the previous films (Heather Graham, for one), Burr says, "in all other respects, 'Hangover Part III' is dully straightforward stuff, with none of the jack-in-the-trunk surprises and little of the inspired crassness of the original 'Hangover.'"
The New York Times' Stephen Holden also finds the Wolfpack in rough shape: "Defanged, with glazed eyes and creaking joints, these superannuated party animals try vainly to stir up some enthusiasm during a return visit to Las Vegas, the site of the first 'Hangover' movie. But their heart isn't in it." Later, he adds, "Only in a sight gag during the final credits is there a momentary flare-up of the old antic spirit. Otherwise, 'The Hangover Part III' is dead. Goodbye and good riddance."
The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Farber calls "Part III" a "tame and pallid climax to the 'Hangover' trilogy. Young viewers looking for unbridled raunch will be sadly disappointed, and so will other moviegoers expecting more than a few wan chuckles. This picture is like a brightly colored balloon with all the comic air seeping out." Farber also notes that "although a bizarre end-credit sequence seems to be opening the door for another chapter, the filmmakers have promised that this will be the end of 'The Hangover.' We can only hope."
Not every critic is panning "Part III," however. The AP's Christy Lemire awards some points for moxie, at least, writing that the film "runs a different sort of risk by going to darker and more dangerous places than its predecessors, both artistically and emotionally. It dares to alienate the very audience that made 'The Hangover' the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time because, well, it isn't exactly a comedy."
She adds that Phillips and Mazin "have placed the unusual challenge on themselves of trying to create something bold and new while simultaneously remaining true to the trilogy and wrapping it all up in a satisfying way. They succeed somewhat; simply trying to be creative marks a huge improvement from part two."
Ultimately, she says, "Your expectations — and keeping them in check — are a crucial factor here." Perhaps "The Hangover Part III" should come with a warning: Enjoy responsibly.
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