The Hangover Part III| Grade D
Traditionally, the third installment of any hit film franchise tends to be a bit lackluster, but this thoroughly listless, unimaginative and crass sequel is so dire, so laugh-free, that at moments you can almost hear the sound of absurdly large checks being deposited into the cast’s ample bank accounts.
Yes, the Wolfpack is back, shambling through another desultory exercise in contractual obligation. Yet, these rude dudes all seem so partied out, so plainly disinterested, that it is becomes a wearying movie equivalent of catching a red eye flight cross-country after running a marathon ¾following a three-day bourbon bender.
Having exhausted all credible ways to simply restage the original’s raucous bachelor party aftermath in the last incarnation, this time the plot takes ever darker turns into crime and anarchy. Manic weirdo man-child Alan (Galifinakis) has degenerated into borderline sociopathic self-absorption after his callous obliviousness inadvertently kills both his pet giraffe and his own father.
Alan’s mysteriously loyal friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) successfully stage an intervention, but in route to the rehab facility all are abducted by a gang of thugs ¾lead by vengeful mobster Marshall and played by an ever-scowling John Goodman.
It seems this intense baddie had his $21 million large stash of gold bars ripped off by the Wolfpack’s unpredictable, treacherous “frenemy” Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), and it has become their problem since goofy Alan remains pen pals with the culprit.
Using the series’ perennial victim Doug as collateral, the guys are tasked with tracking down the frenzied fugitive and turning him over. Why a violent professional criminal would trust this sensitive job to a group of suburban schmucks with a track record of screwing up is as inexplicable as why Marshall’s goons wore Porky Pig masks during the kidnapping ¾only to expose their faces a few minutes later.
Madman Chow isn’t really that hard to find, as he’s busy leaving a trail of money, drugs and chaos in his wake; a trail that leads right back to Las Vegas … where all the insanity began in 2009’s The Hangover.
The decision to center so much of the story on the volatile, one joke Chow, proves fatal as Ken Jeong is about as funny as a tubercular cough.
He is an utter barnacle on the ass of modern comedy, and every moment of screentime that he wastes brings us all one second closer to staring into the cold abyss.
His “performance” isn’t merely unfunny ¾it is desperate, hopeless and sad. But, please let me not mince words.
As truly awful as Jeong is, he gets little support from anyone else. Cooper and Helms are given zero punch lines; and Galifinakis bag of tricks has been reduced to intentionally mispronouncing common words.
There is a brief glimmer of life when Alan has an extremely awkward flirtation with a pawnshop clerk played by improv pro Melissa McCarthy, but even she can’t break through the muck.
Blame for this whole lamentable enterprise falls squarely on the shoulders of the director, who opted to ditch the laughs in order to make a gritty action flick instead.
Phillips seems almost insulted having to pause the mayhem long enough to insert jokes. It could be that the first film’s screenwriters, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, were jettisoned; or that after building an empire on frat boy shenanigans, Phillips has nothing amusing left to say.
The bored stars insist that this is the end of the road for the series, and based on what’s limped to the screen, we believe them.
The Hangover Part III is in theaters now. This film is rated R and has a running time of 100 minutes.