How apt that a franchise called The Hangover should start out so merry and intoxicating, only to end up in such a wretched state. Each chapter of the trilogy is wilder and more traumatising than the last, which is at least fairly poetic, isn’t it? If someone created a safe drinking campaign based on the Hangover series, it’d brilliantly educate everyone about knowing when to stop. Parts II and III were, to use the lingo, over-indulgences.
The cautionary tale would go thus. There’s a super party (the original movie), which everyone enjoyed and didn’t want to end, but also didn’t really want to repeat, because of the violent stomach-pumping which came next (the horrible, horrible Part II), whereupon every last trace of fun was heaved up, and all that remained was the filmic equivalent of liver cirrhosis (Part III).
Blearily, Part III vows to do things differently. No more drinking; no more debauchery, hangovers, or indeed, enjoyment of any sort, resolves this extraordinarily sober ‘comedy’ film through its scary thousand-yard stare.
I’m being visceral, but they started it, as Zach Galifianakis’s character Alan might say. Galifianakis – 43, unerringly inane – makes a compelling case for child actor of the year. The idea is that Alan’s buddies, AKA the Wolfpack, have grown up and left him behind, but are nonetheless all hauled into one last misadventure together.
The gang includes Bradley Cooper, latterly of Silver Linings Playbook, and now a grown-up who doesn’t really crack jokes. Ed Helms always was a grown-up, and isn’t about to relinquish the straight-man mantle to Cooper, so continues to not crack jokes. The fourth guy also doesn’t crack jokes, because he’s always being kidnapped.
Sure enough, he gets bundled into a van, as the luckless troupe find themselves at the centre of a feud between Chinese and American criminals (Ken Jeong and John Goodman). It takes them to Mexico and Las Vegas, the setting of the first film. The highlight is some strobey pictures of Caesar’s Palace which demonstrate the city’s full ugliness, over which Helms says that ‘someone needs to burn this place to the ground’. Same Wolfpack; new ‘too old for this shit’ schtick.
And what a bleak thing Part III is: exactly as dull and serious as you’d expect from comic actors trying to conjure thrills out of a staid screenplay. The central heist is dismally anti-climatic; it involves them crawling through a dog-flap, into an empty house in which they simply switch off the alarm.
And yet, before the first gun was pulled, the film promised to be sweet. Alan’s pals offer to counsel him out of his infantile ways, and it’s very touching; and for a moment it’s inconceivable that later there’ll be a scene with a bisexual Chinaman hang-gliding through Las Vegas squealing about how much he loves cocaine, before getting splattered on a limousine bonnet.
But then that does happen; and it’s one last Hangover over-indulgence, and time to call it a night.