I was genuinely surprised and impressed by The Hangover. I loved the film's anarchic and absurdist spirit, the way the story kept surprising you, the offbeat humor of Zach Galifianakis, and the idea of shooting a Las Vegas movie in the glaring desert sunlight. That sort of freshness and fun seems like a long time ago, after The Hangover 2 was slammed for unapologetically recycling nearly every aspect of the first film except for the location. Now we have The Hangover 3 -- the end of the so-called Wolfpack Trilogy. The fact that it's the last is the only good thing I have to say about this truly awful, shockingly unfunny movie. Watch my ReThink Review of The Hangover 3 below (transcript following).
In 2009, The Hangover was released and became a critical and commercial sensation, earning nearly half a billion dollars on a budget of $35 million. Predictably, The Hangover 2 followed two years later, which outgrossed the original by about $100 million, but also set a new creative low for sequels by essentially remaking the first film in a new location with an almost identical plot. Now we have The Hangover 3, which is supposedly (and hopefully) the last chapter of the trilogy. And I feel like I should tell you in the bluntest language possible that The Hangover 3 is a terrible, shockingly unfunny movie that left me totally stone-faced until I blacked out from anger, sadness, and boredom.
Hangover 3 is ever so slightly different from the first two in that this time, the action doesn't start with Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis), Phil (played by Bradley Cooper), and Stu (played by Ed Helms) waking up from a drug-fueled bender. This time, trouble has found them in the form of a gangster named Marshall (played by John Goodman. Marshall kidnaps the trio's perpetually boring friend Doug (played by Justin Bartha) and will kill him if they don't help Marshall find Leslie Chow, the troublemaking gangster played by Ken Jeong, and retrieve $21 million in gold Chow stole from him. Their quest takes the Wolfpack to Tijuana and back to the source of all their problems, Las Vegas.
Hangover 3 should really just be called Alan and Chow, since virtually all of the humor in this alleged comedy is supposed to come from the antics of these two characters. The problem with this is that while Chow has been given a larger role but has essentially remained unchanged since the first film, Alan has become much meaner and more surly as the trilogy has wore on, making him significantly less likable and funny. So the movie's plan for amusement is for the audience, including Phil and Stu, to just sit back and watch Alan and Chow, two characters who are no longer funny.
But this doesn't do justice to how profoundly unfunny Hangover 3 is. While a second visit with the Wolfpack seemed like a reasonable idea, Hangover 2 showed that the creators of the film clearly didn't have anything else to say, which is why they simply recycled the first script. Cooper, Galifianakis, Helms, and Jeong, who were largely unknown when the first movie came out, have all moved on to way more interesting things, with Cooper almost winning an Oscar in 2013.
Basically, this is a movie no one needed or seemingly even wanted to make, which is why Hangover 3 may be the most joyless, most mercenary film I've ever seen. This is the filmmaking equivalent of a one-hit wonder playing his one hit over and over at weddings for people who are sick of the song and don't want to get married. The actors all seem bored, and for good reason. The vibe I kept feeling was of three guys who begrudgingly returned as a favor to a friend, but only after being paid to do it. I'm a fan of Galifianakis' comedy, and in interviews he's always comes across as someone who hates dumbed-down entertainment and doesn't care at all about money or fame, so it feels particularly unfortunate for him to not only be in a movie like this, but to have so much of the film placed on his shoulders. It makes me wonder if Alan's increasing unpleasantness over the sequels is a reflection of how Galifianakis feels about being in them.
Regardless of what I and anyone else says, those involved with Hangover 3 will be crying all the way to the bank, with the three main actors being reportedly paid well over $15 million each for the final chapter. Which means that the only real loser in all this is you if you see Hangover 3, which earned fewer laughs from me in 100 minutes than I would get from 100 minutes of punching myself in the nuts. It's just an awful movie. Really, really awful.