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By Daniel Lammin
21st May 2013

It’s hard to remember now, but ‘The Hangover’ came as quite a surprise back in 2009. There had been gross-out buddy comedies before, but none that went this far, with such recklessness and originality. Such was its impact that it was even regarded as a serious Oscar contender. But as with all good things in Hollywood cinema, success is followed by a franchise, and after treading the same ground in a different country in ‘The Hangover: Part II’ (2011), director Todd Phillips and his Wolfpack have returned to put a capper on the "epic trilogy" and bring the misadventures to a head.

In the past few months, socially incompetent idiot savant Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has become even stranger and more intolerable. The only option is to give him appropriate medical help, so Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) stage an intervention and start a cross-country trip to take Alan to a mental health care facility that may be able to help them. With no weddings or bachelor parties to get in the way, it should run pretty smoothly... until their lives once again crash into the psychopathic Mr Chow (Ken Jeong), who has broken out of prison in Thailand and running amok on the West Coast. With Doug held hostage by incensed gangster Marshall (John Goodman), the Wolfpack have to find Chow, save their friend and bring the never-ending madness to an end.

For 'Part III', Phillips and screenwriter Craig Mazin do away with the "wake up with no memory in a strange place" situation, giving this film a very distinct tone from the first two installments. In theory, it’s a bit of a relief, opening up the possibilities for a fresh approach rather than following too closely in the footsteps of what had come before. In terms of its execution, Phillips still gives the film that same grittiness, the same bold and unrelenting commitment to its violence and gross inappropriateness, something that others have imitated but none have been able to better. Phillips is easily one of the most interesting comedy directors working today, and his commitment to delivering an uncompromising vision in a genre that so often feels tired and dull is still as admirable as it was back in 2009.


However, while many found 'Part II' lacking for basically taking the same situation and putting it in another country, 'Part III' suffers for the opposite reason - it’s too far removed from that central premise. 'Part III' follows a narrative we’re more familiar with from most action/buddy comedies (get the money, get out of trouble) - films like ‘Date Night’ (2010) - and while it still does it with more panache than most, it lacks the inventiveness and boldness we’ve come to expect from these films. It goes over the top, but strangely not as far as the first film, and certainly not as far as it promises to - or should. ‘The Hangover’ functions on a level of insanity that borders on surrealism, and it was this that made it (and still makes it) something to marvel and admire. For all its faults, 'Part II' at least takes those ideas even further. The first five minutes of this installment are big and bold and gloriously inappropriate, but the rest never lives up to the inception. Rather than pulling out all the stops for the final hoorah, 'Part III' treads safely, only pushing the comedy as far as it needs to. It could have been a thunderous, gigantic finale, but ends up being just a tad disappointing.

That said, in the hands of a lesser ensemble, it could never have worked as well as it does. One of the great strengths of this series has been its central cast, and that is still the case here. Galifianakis, Cooper and Helms are in terrific form. Galifianakis is finally placed at the centre of the film, with Alan’s predicament setting the narrative rolling. He’s significantly more unhinged than we’ve seen him, and Galifianakis tackles this with relish, going exactly as far as he should with Alan’s bizarre form of insanity. Cooper and Helms are the glue that hold the film together, responding to every twist and turn with honesty and complete bewilderment. Cooper in particular is far more subtle and inventive with his comic timing than we’ve seen him before. Jeung is completely off-the-charts with Chow, allowing us to see Chow at psychotic full throttle. Two of the gems of the series have been Alan and Chow, and thankfully, putting them at the centre of this third film doesn’t tip the balance. These guys know what they’re doing, and they do it damn well.

‘The Hangover’ was never intended to be expanded into a trilogy, but with the central team intact throughout the venture, it hasn’t ended up the gratuitous exercise it could have been. Unfortunately, 'Part III' ends the story with a whimper rather than a bang. It feels like a missed opportunity to fulfill the promises of the brilliant original. There’s still a lot to enjoy, though, and while the Wolfpack play it safe this time, at least they reminds us how much we enjoy them... safe that is, until the credits begin to roll, and we get a reminder of what made ‘The Hangover’ such a shock in the first place.

You have been warned.

RELEASE DATE: 23/05/2013
RUN TIME: 1h 40m
CAST: Bradley Cooper
Ed Helms
Zach Galifianakis
Justin Bartha
John Goodman
DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips
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