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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Hangover Part III Movie Review

Of all the franchises born from razor-thin foundations, none may be quite as precariously-built as "The Hangover". Based, ironically, on an idea that revolves around forgetting, the first "Hangover" squeezed a few easy laughs out of a bachelor party gone epically awry. When the self-proclaimed "Wolfpack" returned in 2011 with a sequel so bleak it might as well have been called "Hangover Into Darkness", you'd have been forgiven for not asking, "gee, what's next for these characters?" But unlike Steven Soderbergh did with "Ocean's Twelve", director Todd Phillips has not learned from his mistakes and he returns with a (hopefully) final "Hangover" chapter that is so relentlessly - almost misanthropically - unfunny, it almost feels like a dare.

For those of you not keeping track, the "Wolf" gang consists of alpha dog Phil (Bradley Cooper), beleaguered dentist Stu (Ed Helms), bland fourth-wheel Doug (Justin Bartha) and psychotic man-boy Alan (Zach Galifianakis). In the previous films, Alan has served as a sort of catalyst for the events, but this time the script - by Mr. Phillips and Craig Mazin - makes the "Lethal Weapon 4" mistake: it takes a grating, one-joke side character and puts him front and center. The Joe Pesci of this film is Ken Jeong's Leslie Chow.

"The Hangover Part III" lives or dies by one thing: that you find a sociopathic Asian man hysterically funny. I don't, so much of the film's 100 minute running time was torturous. As the gang is forced (by John Goodman's underwritten mobster) to chase Chow to Tijuana and, eventually, Las Vegas, I kept waiting for the film to find its stride - to at least earn a few honest laughs. That never happened.

Instead, "Part III" is one flat put-down after another. There's not a single memorable line or moment in the film. Is there anything more depressing than listening to an audience that wants to laugh - even tries to laugh - but can't seem to justify doing it?

As the film - and, if there's any justice, the franchise - builds to its inevitable, lazy conclusion, it becomes clear that the filmmakers have one, perhaps unintended, trick up their sleeve. With characters so irredeemably unlikable, they actually succeed in making the audience empathize with the protagonists in one way: they make you want to get so drunk you forget you ever saw these movies.

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