News Column

Joyless Journey ; Unfunny franchise finale a lame road-trip crime tale

May 23, 2013

YellowBrix

By MICHAEL SMITH

It is a sobering realization to exit "The Hangover, Part III" and know that I have come to despise the Wolf Pack and these movies.

These characters really don't even like themselves. They no longer enjoy one another's company. In general, they show no joy for the world in which they live.

They don't make one another laugh. They don't make the audience laugh. This film is a laugh-free bore that doesn't seem to care that it's supposed to be a comedy.

Why should I, or anyone else for that matter, care about these characters, when they appear to be the three dumbest men in America?

The idea four years ago in "The Hangover" was the introduction of characters gathered for a celebration, and it established their archetypes.

There was Phil, the handsome alpha male/leader of the group played by Bradley Cooper; Stu, the wishy-washy dentist who gets dragged into every irresponsible group activity, played by Ed Helms; and Alan, the eccentric (read: inappropriate and immature) new friend, played by Zach Galifianakis as the dark side of the American male's Peter Pan complex.

They have been reduced to Phil, still the quarterback in their misadventures who repeatedly says "Here's what we need to do, guys"; Stu, the doofus waving his hands in the air and saying "How did we get into this situation?" despite everything that's happened to them in the past; and Alan, the idiot whose wacky view of the world grew tiresome long ago.

It is difficult to believe that writer-director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Craig Mazin, who teamed up to make one of the most-reviled sequels in movie history in "The Hangover, Part II," are again the writers for the third film - which is worse from a going-through-the-motions perspective.

Phillips delivered "The Hangover" as a movie with a must-see trailer, then created laughs and surprises in the Wolf Pack's intoxicated "What happened last night?" story, and finally sent moviegoers home giggling with an end-credits "Here's what really happened" photo-montage device.

It begs a question: What really happened to the creativity of that picture?

Phillips had the monumentally bad idea to make a second film that was a virtual remake of the first film, with only a change in location from Las Vegas to Thailand, turning it into something of a self-mocking parody that felt like a rip-off to fans.

"Part III" offers a nothing storyline that is a change in tone for the series, meant to reflect on male maturity and the relationships between fathers and sons as Alan's dad dies in reaction to his son's latest antic (beheading a giraffe on the freeway while driving it home beneath an underpass).

But it's actually a lame road-trip crime tale, with Ken Jeong's ludicrously obscene character, Chow, taking center stage when a crime lord (John Goodman in a bland cameo) threatens the Wolf Pack: Chow stole gold bars from me; you guys know Chow; find him and bring him and the gold to me or I kill the Wolf Pack's fourth member, Doug.

I forced a chuckle at the fact that Justin Bartha's character Doug would, as in each film, be taken out of the action.

This was the first time I even thought about laughing, about 30 minutes in, and it was nearly the last. This version even forgets the raunch factor that so defined the comedy.

Phillips clearly never thought his kooky "bachelor-party-from- hell" picture would result in his being forced to make two more films because he has no idea how to mature these characters beyond the juvenile party antics.

What's really embarrassing is that the first two pictures made so much money - $1 billion-plus worldwide - that everyone involved has become a victim of that success.

The characters act as though the world owes them something, the actors look like they're phoning in every line of dialogue, and the creators clearly don't care anymore beyond cashing in.

Self-entitlement isn't funny, but it is obvious.

Michael Smith 918-581-8479

michael.smith@tulsaworld.com

Originally published by MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer.

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