THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE HANGOVER PART III (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

hangover3.jpg(THE SCENE: Vegas.  The top of an extravagant Vegas hotel.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are on the roof, making a rope from tied towels.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Tell me again why we’re doing this?

L.L. SOARES:  We’re crashing Chow’s party.  Since we weren’t invited, this is the only way in.

MA:  Scaling the side of a building?  I don’t think it’s worth it.

LS:  What do you know?

MA:  I’d rather start our review of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Why do you want to hang out with Chow, anyway?  That guy really bugs me.

LS:  Love him or hate him, he throws great parties.  But if you want to start the review first, be my guest.

MA:  Well, I meant “instead.”  I’d rather review the movie instead of climbing down the side of a Vegas hotel hundreds of feet high just to go to a party.  It’s not my idea of fun.

LS:  Your idea of fun is watching flowers grow.

MA:  Actually, I find reviewing movies a lot of fun.  So, let’s get started with today’s film, THE HANGOVER PART III.

LS:  And then we’re going to this party!

MA:  Sure.  Whatever.

Anyway, welcome folks, to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Today we’re reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III (2013) the third installment in the immensely popular and funny HANGOVER series.  I loved the first one, liked the second one as well, but I had my doubts about this one, since it’s the third in the series, and usually by the time you get to the third film in a series, the quality goes down.

While I generally enjoyed THE HANGOVER PART III, I think unfortunately, it does play like a third film in a series, which is not a good thing.

It’s actually not all that repetitive, since the main gimmick of the first two movies—where the characters awake from a drunken slumber to find themselves in some ridiculous predicament with no memory of the night before and then have to retrace their steps because one of their friends has disappeared, leading them through some wild and wacky adventures— is absent here.  This is not a good thing, since for me, the best part of the HANGOVER movies was in fact this gimmick.

LS: Yeah, I was a little torn over this. At first, it seemed like a ballsy choice to do something completely different in PART III. No crazy party, no blackouts, no increasingly outrageous revelations. PART III goes in a completely different direction, and usually I would like that. Except, I agree with you, what makes these movies so great is the gimmick, and how the filmmakers should be constantly trying to one-up themselves. For example, PART II should have been even more outrageous and shocking than the first one, but it wasn’t (at least it tried). PART III should have been the most outrageous of all, and should have risked getting an NC-17 rating! But it doesn’t even come close. PART III is easily the mellowest of the three when it comes to shocking revelations. I was disappointed.

MA: This time around, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are on their way to take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a special facility where he can receive treatment for his mental issues.  On their way there, they are highjacked and kidnapped by masked thugs who work for a man named Marshall (John Goodman).  Marshall explains to them that their old friend Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) had stolen a bunch of gold from him, and he wants it back.

LS: Those weird Porky Pig masks the kidnappers wear are kind of cool!

MA: They were cool, and I was actually hoping we might see them again later on in the movie, but we don’t.

Marshall knows that Chow has been in contact with Alan, and so he believes Alan, Phil, and Stu are his best option for finding Chow, who has otherwise evaded detection completely since he escaped from a Bangkok prison earlier in the film.  Marshall tells them that unless they bring Chow back to him with his gold, he’ll kill Doug.  Marshall gives them three days to do this.

LS: Who’s Doug, by the way?

MA: You know who Doug is! He’s the fourth member of the Wolf Pack. He’s the one who always either disappears or gets kidnapped or stays home so that he’s not part of the main story. A lot of people call him the “Zeppo” of these movies, like the Marx Brother Zeppo who rarely had much to do in the very early Marx Brothers movies!

LS: Oh yeah, Doug. What does he look like again?

MA: It doesn’t matter. Can I get back to the review?

LS: Sure you can. Man, you’re so touchy!

MA: And that’s the set-up for the plot of THE HANGOVER PART III.  Phil, Stu, and Alan have to track down Chow and bring him to Marshall and his goons in order to save Doug’s life.

LS: They should just let him have Doug. That guy’s boring anyway.

(ALAN from the HANGOVER movies suddenly appears on the roof with them)

ALAN: What are you guys doing?

MA: Alan! You shouldn’t be up here on the roof. It’s dangerous.

LS: Oh, stop treating him like a baby. He can be on the roof all he wants.

ALAN: Thanks a lot, LL. I was just wondering why you guys tied all those towels together.

LS: We’re going to climb down and crash Mr. Chow’s party.

ALAN: I want to go, too! (claps his hands)

MA: Oh brother. I just want to finish this review.

LS: Okay, Alan, The rope made of towels is all set. You can climb down first.

ALAN: Oh goody! You guys are so nice!

MA (whispers to LS): What’s the big idea?

LS (whispers back): I can test out the strength of these towels and see if they’ll hold us. This way, the big doofus tries them out for us.

MA: Okay.

(ALAN hesitates, then starts climbing down the towel-rope. At one point, the towels snap and he falls twenty stories to his death)

LS: That’s really too bad.

MA: Well, at least that wasn’t us.

LS: Yeah. Bye, Alan.

MA: Can I finally get back to our review now?

LS: Sure. My experiment is over.

tho3-1MA: As far as plots go, this one wasn’t too bad.  I did miss the gimmick from the first two movies, but in the same breath I also appreciated that this one was different.  But it’s not the most plausible plot.  Do I really think it realistic that a guy like Marshall would entrust finding Mr. Chow and his gold to three stooges like Phil, Stu, and Alan?  Not really.  But in a goofy comedy like this, I’m not going to be too hard on the plot.

LS: Yeah, like I said, I was torn. Normally I like it when someone does a sequel that takes real risks – that deviates from the same tired, old formula. Except in this case, I guess I didn’t find the HANGOVER gimmick to be all that tired yet. Like I said, they could have stuck to the formula but just upped the ante a lot, and tried to really make us squirm. But instead of amping things up, director Todd Phillips brings it all down a notch. And that’s kind of a bummer.

MA: The bottom line as to why I didn’t like THE HANGOVER PART III all that much—I mean, it was entertaining and diverting, and I didn’t hate it—is that it’s simply not all that funny.  I saw it in a packed theater, and the audience didn’t laugh a whole lot.  The most laughs the film got were at the end, in the wedding scene just before the end credits, and then—in which was for me the funniest part of the whole movie—the brief sequence after the credits start rolling.  I wish this sequence had been at the beginning of the movie and the plot of this one had been about what happened afterwards.

LS: Yeah, this is very important. If you go see THE HANGOVER PART III, you have to sit through the end credits. Well, just part of them. Just don’t leave the damn theater right away! If you do, you will miss what is easily THE FUNNIEST SCENE IN THE WHOLE MOVIE. And here’s where I am in complete agreement with you, Michael. This scene during the final credits is hilarious, and proves that the original formula of these movies still has a lot of life in it yet. And yes, this SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST SCENE IN PART III.  Dammit, I was kicking myself after I left the theater, thinking about the movie that COULD HAVE BEEN if they’d just left most of PART III on the cutting room floor and made a new movie based on that final scene. What a missed opportunity to really make us laugh!!

MA: I recognize writer/director Todd Phillips was looking to shake things up a bit, and to not be repetitive by avoiding the hangover gimmick in this film, but for me, that’s the best part of this series.  That’s why it’s called THE HANGOVER!  I said this when we reviewed the second film in this series, and I’ll say it again:  I actually like the gimmick better than I like the characters.  So for me, I really missed the hangover plot this time around.

LS: I don’t agree that the gimmick is better than the characters, and I’ll explain that soon, when it’s my turn. But I do agree that the gimmick is just as important, and this is one of the few franchises that should have stuck to the damn formula! Just about every other sequel this year is probably going to be predictable and tired and should have tried something new EXCEPT the HANGOVER PART III. What were you thinking, Todd Phillips? You don’t know when you have a solid gold gimmick with lots of life still in it.

MA: Of course, the jokes could have been funnier.  Again, I didn’t laugh all that much.  It also didn’t help that the early jokes—Alan’s misadventure with his new pet giraffe, and the scene at Alan’s father’s funeral—were all jokes that I had already seen in the trailer.  In fact, most of the better jokes in this one I had seen in the trailers.

LS: I loved the stuff with Alan and the giraffe! I wanted more stuff like that!

MA: I agree.  It was funny.  But I’d seen it already.

I wasn’t impressed by the screenplay by director Philips, and fellow writer Craig Mazin.  The plot, while not believable, was decent enough, but the jokes just weren’t there this time around.

I liked the scene where they break into what Chow has told them is his own house, and the bit where Stu and Chow have to first crawl through the house and then disarm the alarm is hilarious, but there were too few of these laugh-out-loud moments in this movie.

LS: That scene had its ups and downs, but overall it was pretty clever. I liked it, too.

MA: And I enjoyed the scene where Phil and Alan crash Chow’s party, and Chow escapes, soaring over the streets of Las Vegas as a human kite while Stu pursues him from the ground.

LS: Yeah, that was pretty good! Chow gets some of the best moments in this one. But a lot of people hate the character of Mr. Chow, so they might not enjoy those scenes as much as we did.

MA: But THE HANGOVER PART III rarely reaches those kinetic moments of sheer insanity which drove the first movie along.  Nor do the individual characters have as many memorable moments here.

Bradley Cooper pretty much plays it straight in this one as Phil, and while Ed Helms does get to enjoy some funny bits here as Stu, he sadly avoids his signature moments where awful things happen to him, unless you count the after-credit scene.  No tattoos, no missing teeth, no strange marriages to a hooker.  Honestly, I missed that.

LS: Bradley Cooper’s Phil is always the straight man. He just says cynical things and swears a lot, and while he doesn’t give an amazing performance here, I was satisfied with what he does.

MA:  Yeah, but he’s was funnier in the first two movies.

LS:  Helms, on the other hand, is pretty hilarious in the first two movies, and this time around they give him nothing to do for the most part except get bossed around by Alan. Poor Ed Helms! He deserves better.

MA: Even Zach Galifianakis as Alan, by far the funniest of the trio, while still as insane as ever, just didn’t generate the same kind of laughter as he did in the first two movies.  In fact, some of his scenes here are downright weird without being funny.  The scene where Phil tells Alan he loves him, and Alan starts wailing and crying is simply bizarre, and not humorous at all.

LS: Alan is a complete weirdo, but he’s a lovable weirdo. I have no problem with scenes that are just plain weird. My problem is scenes where Alan just sits around and pretty much does nothing. There’s one scene where they’re all just standing around, and Alan is sitting on the hood of their car, looking half-asleep, and I thought “this is exactly the kind of stuff that’s wrong with PART III,” they should be moving around non-stop, and Alan should never seem tired or like he has nothing to do.

MA: Ken Jeong is back as Mr. Chow, and his antics aren’t as funny this time around either.

LS: Usually Mr. Chow makes me laugh my ass off—despite myself. But yeah, he’s pretty uneven in this one. Sometimes he’s really funny, but a lot of the time he’s not. He even drifts into the “becoming annoying” category a few times during this movie, which is awful. CHOW SHOULD NEVER BE BORING!

Also, I want to give a shout out to Melissa McCarthy. She sure has become a big star since that BRIDESMAIDS movie. And she has a small role here as a pawn dealer in the heart of Vegas who has an instant love connection with baby-man Alan. I really liked her in this one, and enjoyed her scenes with Galifianakis a lot! More Melissa McCarthy!!

MA: You didn’t go see IDENTITY THIEF did you?

LS: No, it looked stupid.

MA: But Melissa McCarthy starred in it. With Justin Bateman. And she’s going to be in the upcoming cop comedy THE HEAT with Sandra Bullock.

LS: That looks kind of dumb, too.

MA: But you just said you were a fan of hers. You said “More Melissa McCarthy!

LS: I know…(thinks about it)…I’m sorry.

I liked her in this movie, though!

the_hangover_part_3_movie-wide

MA: Bottom line, THE HANGOVER PART III suffers from jokes that simply aren’t as creative as the jokes from the first two movies.  The cast is decent enough, and it’s fun to see these characters on the big screen again, but the situations they find themselves in here really aren’t all that nutty.  The wild chaotic hilarity from THE HANGOVER is largely absent in this third installment.

THE HANGOVER PART III is mildly amusing, but I wish I had laughed more.

I give it two knives.

So what did you think of it, LL?

(MR. CHOW suddenly appears on the roof with them)

CHOW: What are you doing on the roof of Chow’s hotel?

MA: Just getting some air.

CHOW: What’s that rope made of towels. You were going to crash Chow’s party, weren’t you?

LS: We don’t care about your stupid party. And we have nothing to do with that rope thingie. So cool your jets.

MA: Yeah, we’re trying to review THE HANGOVER PART III here.

CHOW: Okay, Chow will be quiet. Chow wants to hear what you thought of it…And it better be good.

LS: Michael just said it sucked.

MA: No I didn’t! I gave it two knives.

LS: Like I said, he said it was garbage.

(CHOW pulls out a loaded gun)

CHOW: Did you now?

LS: But don’t worry. I’m going to give my final comments now.

CHOW (smiles): Okay, Chow wants to hear that before Chow kills this guy.

MA: Gee, thanks.

LS (to Michael): Look, I wanted to really like this movie, but just about all of your problems with it are legitimate. We’ve already discussed in depth how going off of the tried-and-true formula this time around was a bad idea. But why didn’t Phillips’ risk work?

Well, the bottom line is, THE HANGOVER PART III isn’t a comedy.

CHOW: It’s not??

LS: There, I said it. I let the monkey out of the bag.

It starts out as a comedy, it seems to want to be a comedy throughout, but as soon as those Porky Pig-faced dudes kidnap our heroes, the movie stops trying to be funny, and instead gets too wrapped up in its plot involving Marshall, and the gold, and trying to get revenge on Chow, and suddenly, these characters who we love in comedy films, are suddenly in a thriller.

My argument is, the movie still holds up okay because I like these characters. Even though they stop doing funny things, I like Phil and Stu and Alan, and yes, even Mr. Chow…

MA: What about Doug?

LS: Who’s that?

Anyway, they all seem to be plopped into a serious crime movie instead of a comedy, but I like these characters, so I was still interested throughout, and I enjoyed it. But I DIDN’T LAUGH much at all. I have to admit, people in the theater with me did laugh. When Alan said something particularly odd. When someone did something that almost got them killed. People in the audience laughed a lot more than this movie deserved, because they LOVE these characters. And I guess I do too, which is why I didn’t hate this movie. But where were the monkeys? The unexpected tattoos? The Thai lady men?

I said I was torn, and I am. THE HANGOVER PART III came out a day earlier than normal (the first showing was Wednesday night at midnight), so a lot of critics had their say even earlier than usual. And the reviews for this one have been pretty awful. So I went into THE HANGOVER PART III expecting the worst, and, I have to say, it really isn’t that bad.

But it’s also not the comic masterpiece it could have been.

MA:  It’s not even close.  And it’s not really that great of a serious crime movie either.  It lacks grit and it’s not edgy. It’s not violent either.  I think Phillips got caught in the middle between comedy and crime movie and ended up not making either genre proud.

LS:  Oh, I agree. The only reason this movie works at all is the characters, and therefore the cast. They’re the only thing that saves this movie.  The script is just a letdown on a lot of levels.

And I want to emphasize how important the characters and actors are here. You could say, well the original gimmick is the most important thing and any characters can be plopped into the story and it will work.  But that’s not true. Director Todd Phillips produced a movie called PROJECT X in 2012 that was pretty much the same gimmick as the HANGOVER movies, except it was high school kids. And it was pretty bad. Why? Because the characters just weren’t that good (one was a complete asshole). They were not strong enough protagonists to keep you interested in the gimmicky storyline (to be fair, PROJECT X was not directed by Phillips, but by Nima Nourizadeh). So that’s why I say the cast is just as important to the HANGOVER movies as the gimmick.

But seriously, in PART III, which has the characters but not the gimmicks, it’s still second-rate. It could have been so much better.

MA: I agree.  It could have been better.

LS: I mean, let’s look at this and figure out why it’s such a dud. We have Todd Phillips, a director who isn’t afraid to push the envelope. He proved it with the first HANGOVER movie. Hell, he proved it back with his very first feature film, HATED (1993), a documentary about shock-rocker GG Allin. GG was a complete lunatic who would do anything at any given moment – which is why he was such a great choice for a documentary, and Phillips followed him around in his crazy everyday life to make that movie. I’m sure on some weird level that experience inspired him to create the HANGOVER films, where the idea was ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN AT ANY TIME.

And HATED wasn’t a fluke. Phillips also gave us OLD SCHOOL (2003), which has some pretty decent moments, including Will Ferrell jogging in the nude. And the first HANGOVER movie, which deserved to be the big hit it was. And I still wish they would release his “lost” documentary about what really goes on in college fraternities, FRAT HOUSE (1998), which I fear we’ll never get to see.

THE HANGOVER PART II was a disappointment because it didn’t do anything that out-shocked the first movie. But it was still pretty funny, and I liked it. PART III makes the fatal mistake that it just forgets to be funny. NOTHING HAPPENS! Nothing that takes us by surprise. Nothing that shocks us. If PART III is a thriller, then it’s a predictable thriller, and most of the time we’re not really on the edge of our seats wondering how it will all wrap up. What saves the third movie is that by now we love the characters so much, we’ll watch them doing almost anything.

MA: I don’t really agree with you. I mean, I like these characters too, but I don’t  love them, and I certainly don’t like them enough to enjoy them in a mediocre movie.

And by the way, you sure do like shouting a lot during this review.

LS: But PART III has completely dropped the ball on giving us anything that’s unexpected or that will make us uncomfortable or that will push the boundaries of an R-rated comedy. It doesn’t’ do any of these things. And that’s disappointing. But even more disappointing, even more frustrating, even more infuriating, is that after the end credits roll a little bit, we get that final, “secret” scene. That Easter egg at the end of the movie. And we find ourselves laughing our asses off. And we suddenly realize Todd Phillips could have given us that completely off-the-wall PART III that could have shocked us, and could have made us laugh uncontrollably for 90 minutes – but he just decided not to. He made a conscious decision to screw with the audience. And that annoys me.

I like PART III for what it is. But I kind of hate PART III because of what it could have been. What Phillips actually thought about and came up with, but didn’t make. Especially since he has said this is the last movie of a trilogy.

The bastard!

But, based on what’s up on the screen, I like these characters a lot, and I liked this movie a little more than you did, Michael. I give it two and a half knives.

But based on that final scene, this one could have easily been a three and a half knife movie. Hell, I give that one final scene by itself, three and a half knives.

CHOW: No, no. You  both were supposed to give this movie FOUR knives. That was the agreement. Chow is very angry now. Chow will kill you both.

LS: Not so fast, Chow.

(LS grabs CHOW and throws him over the edge. This time, CHOW forgot his hang-glider and falls twenty stories to his death).

CHOW: AAAAAAAAAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE

MA: Thanks. That was some quick thinking.

LS: Not really. He was just too predictable this time around.

Okay, I guess we’re done here, and now I’m kind of bummed out and I don’t want to go to Chow’s party anymore. So let’s just go down to the casino and play the slot machines instead.

MA: Or Texas Hold-Em.

LS: Yeah.

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two knives.

LL Soares gives THE HANGOVER PART III ~ two and a half knives

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