Losing the Buzz

“Hangover III” more like a cough syrup come-down

By Vincent Abbatecola

hangover3Director Todd Phillips handles a lot of boys-just-want-to-have-fun comedies, such “Due Date,” “Old School” and “Road Trip.” When “The Hangover” was released in 2009, it was the ultimate edition to this specialty trend. In a story about three friends trying to locate a fourth after a night of debauchery and tomfoolery, the film reveled in its barrage of unpredictable events. Then, the filmmaker tried to replicate the success with a sequel two years later, which ended up just being a joyless rehash of the original.

Now, with “The Hangover – Part III,” Phillips brings his alcohol-infused series to its conclusion. Although this third installment abandons the formula from the previous two films and offers a few shots of laughs that are scattered throughout, it’s clear that this “Hangover” premise has downgraded from a swig of Jameson to non-alcoholic beer.

After Alan (Zach Galifianakis) causes a huge traffic accident while off his medication, his father reprimands him and dies of a heart attack shortly after. Following the funeral, Alan’s family and friends, including Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) stage an intervention. As the Wolfpack is driving to Alan’s rehab center, they are run off the road by a group of thugs and its leader, Marshall (John Goodman). He knows that the friends have connections with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who has stolen Marshall’s gold. They are told to track down Mr. Chow and take him and the gold back to Marshall, or his gang will kill Doug, who has been taken as a hostage.

Although the story material doesn’t accomplish nearly as much as the original, the performances can still elicit laughs sporadically, despite being mostly what has been seen before. Phil is still the most levelheaded of the Wolfpack’s main three, delivering his more witty lines with his usual seriousness. Meanwhile, Stu has his typical and occasionally amusing freak-outs. As for Alan, even though he was considerably funnier in the original when audiences were first introduced to him, his character has an appropriate send-off as he emerges into maturity near the film’s end.

John Goodman provides the film with a truly funny performance as the relentless gangster. His outbursts of fury help the story emerge from its lulls. After having memorably comic roles in last year’s “Argo” and “Flight,” there’s the upside that Goodman can make this film somewhat tolerable as viewers watch him as an unforgiving and humorous villain.

The screenplay by Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin, thankfully, spares the audience from sitting through the same formula for a third time, however, the script doesn’t replace it with much. It doesn’t become much more than an average heist movie. It’s difficult to duplicate the fun sense of randomness that permeated the outrageous events of the first installment.

The film incorporates some elements from the original, such as the motherly stripper and escort Jade (Heather Graham), Black Doug (Mike Epps), Mr. Chow (who also appeared in the second film) and the Las Vegas setting, which all invoke a sense of nostalgia, however, not in a positive way. Rather, it just recalls how much of a good time the original offered and how this third entry doesn’t reach the hilariously drunken stupor of the first outing.

Todd Phillips is a director who can make the raunchy fantasies of young-adult males come true, and the viewer can tell he has a lot of fun doing so, whether he’s dealing with college road trips, frat-house mishaps or hangovers. The first “Hangover” was his top brain child because it presented a scenario that viewers either wished to experience or compared to with their own nights of one-too-many.

The second was basically “The Hangover” on repeat and was needlessly darker while trying to top the original. This latest installment, without good reason, also includes its own dark factors and some strange tonal shifts that divert from the outrageously fun tone of the original.

Given that the only movie that Phillips has directed between the “Hangover” films was 2010’s “Due Date,” the franchise took up much of his time and attention. Now that the series is over, Phillips can become Hollywood’s worthy frat boy again and make more crazy stories outside of the “Hangover” party. The Wolfpack has howled for the last time, and Phillips has been right to end it, seeing as the series had two sequels too many.

Final grade: C