With Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, John Goodman. Written by Todd Phillips & Craig Mazin. Directed by Todd Phillips. Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity. 100 minutes.
“The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II” were big hits. Think about that for a minute. Two movies about aggressively stupid morons leaving a wake of chaos and destruction in their wake were so warmly embraced by moviegoers that we’re being offered a third helping. The ads say, “It all ends.” Promises, promises.
From the decapitation of a giraffe on a California freeway near the start of the film to an antisemitic reference at the end, THE HANGOVER PART III is tasteless, offensive, not particularly funny, and demonstrates that none of the characters have learned anything at all from their experiences. It will undoubtedly be a big hit.
After a drawn-out prologue which includes the killing of the giraffe and the death of a supporting character, the “Wolf Pack” is reunited to transport the stupidest of them – Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – to rehab. Bradley Cooper is the “too cool for the room” Phil, Ed Helms is the nervous dentist Stu, and Justin Bartha returns as Doug but who should really be named Zeppo, after the bland Marx brother who never had much to do. Here, Doug’s job is to be kidnapped by Marshall (John Goodman), a crime boss who has lost $21 million in gold to Mr. Chow (the ever-annoying Ken Jeong). Marshall says he will kill Doug unless Alan, Phil and Stu produce Mr. Chow and the missing gold in three days. Alleged hijinks ensue in Mexico before the boys find themselves back in Las Vegas after Mr. Chow betrays them. Please try not to anticipate the ending.
For those who find the “Hangover” movies the height of American film comedy, you’ll be especially pleased by the arrival of Cassie, played by Melissa McCarthy, alumna of such cinematic crimes as “Bridesmaids” and “Identity Thief.” What all these films have in common is that we’re supposed to be rooting for characters who are self-absorbed, ignorant, and arrogant, and laugh at what they do to their friends and family. It would be one thing if this was a comedy of revenge where the butts of the jokes deserve their fates, but no such luck. This is about humiliating decent people who make the mistake of caring for others. Alan and Cassie, for example, fall in love by taking turns insulting her wheelchair-bound mother.
Analogous comedies of an earlier era – think “Animal House” or “Caddyshack” – may have had dimwitted heroes but their targets were nasty, venal people who richly earned their comeuppance. By time we get to the inevitable closing credits scene here it’s not clear whether this is a final nasty attempt at humor or a threat to do “The Hangover Part IV.” Those who roared with delight at the first two films will find this one hits the same benchmarks for comedy writing and acting that the earlier ones did and dismiss this review as the carping of someone who “just doesn’t get it.”
Fair enough. Everyone else, though: don’t say you haven’t been warned.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.