In one very important way, comedy is like math: Either it’s right or it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter how attractive or flashy or complex the context is; if it doesn’t get people reacting, then the comedy has failed. The Hangover Part III is a failed comedy. It strayed from its tested formula of faulty memories and over-the-top humor to ruinous results.
Man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has gone and done something awful, yet again. He’s accidentally decapitated a giraffe, causing a horrific pile-up on the freeway. The event is too much for his father (Jeffrey Tambor), who dies from a heart attack. Worried that Alan will never get the help he needs, his family and friends, Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), participate in an intervention to send Alan to a mental hospital in Arizona. As the Wolf Pack, which also includes Doug (Justin Bartha), drives Alan to his destination, they’re kidnapped by thugs working for a crime lord named Marshall (John Goodman). He was robbed of several million dollars-worth of gold bars by Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), and he believes the Wolf Pack is his best shot at getting Mr. Chow. So Marshall takes Doug as insurance while Phil, Stu and Alan do what they can to apprehend Mr. Chow who is as crazy as ever.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of watching a bad stand-up comic will have flashbacks while watching The Hangover Part III. Except instead of suffering through a 12-minute set of jokes, audiences will have to endure 100 minutes of stupid slapstick and weird gags. Consider Mr. Chow and Stu having to crawl on the floor to avoid motion sensors. Mr. Chow takes the opportunity to ram his face into Stu’s butt like a dog and then later eat out of a dog dish. Meanwhile, Phil is outside with Alan who is fixated on whether or not Phil’s shirt is from Diesel. The comedy just isn’t there for anyone older than 14.
It’s strange that Part III strayed so far away from the series formula, which has previously involved the Wolf Pack getting dosed by a powerful drug, experiencing a crazy night, and then spending the next morning trying to piece their recent past together. Part III doesn’t have any of that. They know exactly what has to be done and are usually never at a loss of what to do. While Part III would be fine as a standalone film, the Hangover series was built on a gimmick, and the members of the Wolf Pack aren’t memorable enough to give them a new concept. If it weren’t for Zach Galifianakis’ unique brand of comedy and Ken Jeong’s eccentric take on Mr. Chow, then Part III would be almost completely alien to the series.
Whoever decided that having a Hangover film focus on Alan and Mr. Chow was a good idea made a horrible decision. These are the two weirdest and most unbelievable characters in the series; they just add insanity to an insane situation. Audiences can’t sympathize with characters who don’t react to situations in a realistic fashion, and it’s hard to root for craziness. The charm of the Hangover films has been that seemingly ordinary guys are trying to survive extraordinary circumstances. Part III focuses on extraordinary characters (Alan and Chow) who view their extraordinary situation as normal. Furthermore, their comedy grates on the nerves quickly, with Galifianakis getting way too much screen time to perform his odd shtick, and Jeong’s Chow manically swinging from friend to foe. He’s so obnoxious that at some point, audiences will hope the Wolf Pack catches Mr. Chow so that Marshall can finally put an end to the madness.
The only bright spot in an otherwise desolate space of inky darkness is the tiny role of Melissa McCarthy, whom comedy comes to effortlessly. Alan and Mr. Chow are simply caricatures of people, and Phil and Stu have very little to do that would give them any kind of growth. The last two could be replaced by any other character played by any other actor and the film wouldn’t suffer.
The Hangover Part III is just a weird movie overall. From the very beginning, the tone of the movie was off, leaning toward something more action-oriented, and the film never really switches gears afterward. The comedy falls as flat as the characters, and the few cameos from the first Hangover, like Jade (Heather Graham) and Black Doug (Mike Epps), only serve to remind of better times. The Hangover Part III is a disappointing farewell to a fun series. Alas.