It's been said that you can't go wrong underestimating your audience. "The Hangover Part III" plays like an extended attempt to test the limits of that idea. Grating and unfunny, cynical and stupid, it's a movie that expects exactly nothing of its viewers, and offers them the same in return.
"Part III" is predicated on a fundamental error: that being irritating is also somehow hilarious. Over the course of 100 minutes or so, it throws virtually all of its weight behind this mistaken theory of comedy. The predictable result is a movie that is incredibly irritating and not at all funny.
Granted, it is not simply irritating. It is also cruel, jaded, and deeply juvenile. Like its predecessors, the movie is rated R, which is supposed to indicate that a film is not appropriate for children under the age of 17. The movie's general foulness probably makes it unsuitable for anyone. But even being generous, the rating's age floor is backward. Instead, I would suggest that 17 is actually the upper limit on the age of individuals who might appreciate the movie's lame shenanigans.
"The Hangover Part III" is the sort of comedy that relies heavily on infantile gags involving things like human rear-end-sniffing and unwanted homosexual come-ons. LOL, right? Or so the filmmakers hope. This is a movie designed for people who spend much of the running time texting, which is exactly what several audience members at the screening I attended did.
To be clear, the problem is not gross-out humor in and of itself. It's the movie's lazy substitution of cheap offense for laughs. The movies that manage to turn outrage into knee-slappers - think "Borat" or "Team America" - have a take-no-prisoners zeal that the latest "Hangover" can't match. It comes across as tired and desperate, a trailer-length gimmick that has now been extended into three feature-length escapades.
As in previous films, the story concerns the can-you-believe-it adventures of a trio of representative bros. There's Phil (Bradley Cooper), the bro-est of the bunch, a ladies man with a sheet of stubble and a shaggy mane. Slightly less bro-ey is Stu (Ed Helms), an uptight, exasperated dentist who's always in over his head. And there's Alan (Zach Galifianakis), a bearded manchild whose inappropriate behavior drives the movie's mess of a narrative. As usual, a fourth group member, Doug (Justin Bartha), spends most of the movie on the sidelines.
Ken Jeong returns as the obnoxious Chow, in an expanded role. And John Goodman shows up as Marshall, a new antagonist whose scenes are the only tolerable moments in the movie.
Chow and Alan are supposed to be the movie's comic catalysts, and yet very little that either does is in any way funny. Both are essentially one-note jokes: Chow is endlessly mean-spirited, Alan equally selfish and inappropriate. A knowing late-film exchange between the two, however, captures the core of the film's flawed comic theory. "When we get together, bad things happen and people get hurt," Alan says. To which Chow responds, "Yeah, that's the point. It's funny."
No. It's not.
TITLE: "The Hangover Part III"
CREDITS: Directed by Todd Phillips; written by Mr. Phillips and Craig Mazin
RATING: R for foul language, drug use, violence, brief nudity
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS
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