You only need to have seen one “Hangover” film to know the formula of this series: Bachelor party. Memory loss. Retrace steps of crazy drunken night. Solve a mystery like some sort of frat version of the Scooby gang. But in this third (and potentially final) film by director Todd Phillips, the story manages to both re-tread old steps and mix up the formula. This time there is no bachelor party. No memory loss, and no crazy drunken night. There is however, a mystery to solve, and more importantly, there is Vegas.
The film opens with a series of occurrences that are both disturbing and hilarious, and a little disturbing that you find it hilarious. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is on a downward spiral after going off his meds: an unfortunate giraffe incident and deteriorating relationships with his family lead to an intervention by his old wolf pack, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha). They take him on the road to go to a treatment facility in Arizona, but while Alan does receive treatment throughout the film, needless to say, this facility, located right near Vegas, is never seen.
The wolf pack is threatened by mobster Marshall (John Goodman) before they can even enjoy the nineties nostalgia road trip mix tape, and events transpire that finds Doug being taken hostage, and the rest of the team on the hunt for prison escapee Mr Chow (Ken Jeong).
I’m not spending too much time on plot here, because a) you don’t watch a ”Hangover” movie for the plot, and b) the random things that happen to these characters is the film’s entire appeal and I don’t want to spoil it. I was relieved this film isn’t a carbon copy of the first two, even if it does come full circle and many familiar characters and locations are revisited.
The music is pitch perfect, catchy, and maintains energy to the film as their journey takes them from LA to Mexico to Vegas. The characters are still charming, have great chemistry and Goodman is a great addition as the new bad guy. Caesar’s rooftop is revisited in a particularly inspired fashion that I hope doesn’t result in copycat attempts in real life, and Melissa McCarthy’s pawn shop owner is also a highlight.
But like most franchises squeezing out sequel dollars, the first ”Hangover” film remains the best. Fresh and consistently funny, it hadn’t yet settled into a rhythm that is now familiar. The jokes don’t always land here and there is nothing that Mr Chow can do that will really surprise us, although he gives it his best shot, and sure knows how to jump off a balcony. The films have never been particularly female friendly, consistently failing the Bechdel Test for women in film, and while this one sees the return of Heather Graham, she is vastly underused and her character remains one dimensional. When a film can spend so much time redeeming someone that drugs his friends, is rude to his parents, and has little regard for human (or animal) life, surely they can develop more female characters than ones defined purely by their relationship to men – ‘wife’, ’love interest’ and ‘prostitute’. But then this is essentially a frat film, so I’m not sure what I was expecting.
While not the pick of the bunch, if you’re heading to the cinema for some laughs, you will find that here. The film looks amazing and sounds good, and is a fitting end to the journey of the wolf pack. We hope. Although do stay until after the credits. There had to be some drinking somewhere…