Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, Jeffrey Tambor, Heather Graham, Mike Epps, Jamie Chung
It’s hard to believe that I once dismissed The Hangover based on its trailer. At the time, I assumed it would be one of those comedies that barely cracked the top 5 for at least a week. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s been four years and here we are, staring down the barrel of The Hangover Part III. What makes the final installment of Todd Phillips’ trilogy so interesting is the fact that it strives to break the formula of the first two films and, more importantly, come full circle.
So far, a vast majority of critics have leveled their intense dislike at Part III, and honestly, I was filled with dread. However, these were probably the same critics that glorified Star Trek Into Darkness as a masterpiece, so their credibility has to be taken with a grain of salt once in a while. Having said that, was Part III a worthy follow-up and an effective conclusion to the Wolf Pack’s journey? Yes and yes.
Part III kicks off with Alan (Zach Galifianakis) creating chaos on a huge scale, thanks to his reckless, child-like mentality. This leads to an intervention, where Doug and the Wolf Pack (Stu and Phil) convince Alan to check into a rehab facility. Unfortunately, once they hit the road, they are ambushed by a bitter criminal kingpin named Marshall (played by John Goodman). Whereas the Wolf Pack previously ran around in their attempts to retrieve lost friends and rectify their fuck-ups, it is now up to the Wolf Pack to rectify Leslie Chow’s fuck-up. According to Marshall, Chow (Ken Jeong) stole half of his gold bars and went off the grid after escaping a maximum security prison in Bangkok. Marshall takes Doug (the one guy in the group who always gets the shitty end of the stick) hostage until the Wolf Pack can draw Chow out of hiding and deliver the stolen gold to its rightful owner.
I’m not sure what the critics were expecting from Part III, but it was a huge breath of fresh air. One of the major downfalls of Part II was that it followed the blueprint of the first film a little too closely, which provided few surprises. Part III adopts a quicker pace, and the fact that it’s more about a wild goose chase than a quest to piece together past actions was brilliant, but above all, necessary. Familiar faces show up and Las Vegas once again becomes a crucial setting, but what makes Part III work so well is the development between these characters. There was no indication of growth in the second film, so it was wonderful to see Stu and Phil finally accepting Alan for who he is in spite of the hell he constantly puts them through.
A lot of viewers say that Leslie Chow steals the movie, and I can’t argue with that. He was a monkey wrench in the previous installments, but he becomes the MacGuffin in this film, staying two steps ahead of the Wolf Pack through sheer insanity. Chow needed to play a bigger role in this film, and Ken Jeong doesn’t take that opportunity for granted. He’s a tough pill to swallow at times, but he really shines in the context of this trilogy.
The film was chalk-full of great set pieces, from Chow parachuting from the top of Caesar’s Palace to the group’s attempt to break into a mansion, but Part III had a lot of heart this time around. There’s a heart-to-heart scene between Alan and a character (whose identity can’t be spoiled) that’s genuinely touching, and the film throws in a budding romance that’s equally heartwarming.
The end of the film was a nice, bittersweet sendoff for the Wolf Pack, and when the screen fades to black, one can’t help but feel a great sense of satisfaction. Granted, there is a scene embedded within the end credits that will either make you laugh or roll your eyes, but it doesn’t hurt the film in any significant way.
If you were put off by the negative backlash that Part III has received, rest assured, it is not as bad as they say. It ties up the trilogy in a nice little bow and gives Alan, Phil, and Stu, and Chow the hilarious finale they deserve.