The Hangover was the first R-rated film I went to see in the theater and since then, it’s one of the few comedies I can watch that always makes me laugh. The film has staked itself in pop culture with an incredible impact since its 2009 release, making it one of the recognizable and quoted comedies since Animal House or Caddyshack. The film is the definition of a 21st century comedy: crass, raunchy, but hilarious. The second outing, however, 2011’s The Hangover: Part II was undoubtedly one of the most disappointing sequels in recent memory. What was enjoyable and hilarious the first go around in Vegas, was meaner, darker, and unfortunately, much less funny, in Bangkok. However, the sequel brought in boatloads of cash, so a third, and highly-publicized “final” sequel was inevitable, and I went into it with little hope that it could just be better than the second one. The Hangover: Part III reunites us with Alan, Stu, and Phil as they find themselves mixed up with some unexpected figures from their past, and on a hunt for the one man who’s brought them more trouble than anyone else: the infamous Mr. Chow.
The characters of the original Hangover were essential to what made it so great. Not only were they frequently hilarious, but their chemistry was incredible and they were characters you could really get invested in, even with a little heart to them. However, these characters were diluted to cruel, dark caricatures of what they once were in the sequel. Fortunately, The Hangover: Part III certainly attempts to make up for lost ground, trying to give us characters less like the ones we saw in Part II and more like the ones we saw in Part I. Of course, it never truly recaptures the jiving chemistry that rocked the first film, but the characters aren’t truly painful to watch this time around, and even Alan gets an arc that ties up his story with heart. Unfortunately, The Hangover: Part III does suffer a similar curse that plagued Part II: an overdose of Chow. Chow was a supporting character in the first film; a sideshow at most. But in this threequel, like the sequel, he takes center stage in the story, and what was once off-the-wall bizarre and uproariously funny gets somewhat rote, repetitive, and annoying. However, unlike the return of Chow, there’s also the return of some fan-favorite characters not seen since the 2009 film that make a welcome return here in a funny and nostalgic fashion. John Goodman also makes a bizarre appearance here that can never be fully explained. I assume he was paid a lot. I mean look at the guy’s resume as of late: Flight (nominated for two Oscars). Argo (won Best Picture)… and The Hangover: Part III. And in the film, Goodman’s appearance is equally unexplainable, though his character shockingly ties into the first film and the overall story of the franchise quite well, making me want to go back and check if said connection actually holds up by watching the first film.
Finally, The Hangover: Part III breaks the mold that shaped the first two films, something that desperately needed to happen in order for the franchise to continue. The Hangover: Part III does break the mold, but replaces it with a surprisingly dark crime story that isn’t as funny as it is simply mildly entertaining. Overall, that’s the only height Part III ever really reaches: it’s entertaining for the most part. It’s actually shockingly unfunny, and the script actually makes no attempt to be raunchy, funny, or even downright inappropriate, save for a Jew joke that you can actually hear fall flat as it hits the audience. It’s actually surprising how not funny this film is, and instead, it’s simply passably entertaining.
The film is also unusually nostalgic upon the first film, trying so desperately to give it a “finale” feeling that’s rewarding and heartfelt. Shockingly, this is one of the best aspects of the film. It’s aware of the phenomenon of the first film, hardly recognizes that the second happened, and really just attempts to build upon its legacy by a few inside references to memorable moments of the first film. In the end, this could just be another sobering reminder that no sequel could come close to reaching the heights of the first film, but it’s also nice to see a finale be so nostalgic about what came before it. It gives the film a complete feeling that it would’ve lacked otherwise, and this definitely kicks the film into a higher, more enjoyable gear once the Wolfpack gets to Vegas.
In the end, Part III is an unmemorable finale. It’s also shockingly unfunny. But somehow, it’s entertaining to an extent, and it is a surprisingly complete finale to the trilogy that simply needed to go out on a note higher than the one the second film delivered. If you’re looking for the next great, well… Hangover, don’t look here. But if you’re interested in the least about what happens to your favorite characters from the first film, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
FINAL GRADE: ★★★★★ (5/10 stars)
FINAL SAY: Notably better than the second film, but still lightyears away from achieving what the first did, The Hangover: Part III is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but delivers a mildly entertaining and satisfying finale to the Hangover franchise.
The Hangover: Part III will be released in theaters on May 23.