I re-read what I wrote about “The Hangover” and “The Hangover 2,” movies made by Todd Phillips. I was looking for some tip off in the genuinely funny first movie and the slavishly similar second movie that they were intended as the first two in a film trilogy. But I didn’t find any such suggestion.
The third film, the brand-new “The Hangover 3,” has a passage at the end which suggests it is the closer for a larger cinematic epic. The movie-ending photos are taken from all three films. And the close gets a sentimental treatment that is pretty much out of keeping with the wild comedic tone of the original blockbuster.
“3” does repeat the cast of the original movie. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are back. Justin Bartha is back long enough to disappear again, as he did in the first film. Zach Galifianakis returns, and his part has been much expanded for the new film, so much so that the movie depends on him, and he lets it down a little.
The movie also tries to get more out of Ken Jeong, who plays Mr. Chow, a wild man who appears suddenly in the other films. Jeffrey Tambor and Heather Graham are back, too, though neither one of them gets any more screen time than does Bartha.
The original movie (and its sequel, which tried to re-tell the same story while setting the action in Bangkok) was about Phil (Cooper), dentist Stu (Helms), and overaged boy Alan (Galifianakis) trying to recover someone they lost during a wild, drunken night of partying, a night they don’t remember. “3” does not follow the same story.
Instead it is as sort of an explanation for the earlier events. Once any film starts to explain itself, enthusiasm quickly fades. And although Phillips (who also co-wrote the screenplay) knows to dramatize everything, to put his characters into action, “3” has a less attractive plot.
In it Phil, Stu, and Doug (Bartha, who was the comic relief in the National Treasure movies) agree to drive Alan to a sanitarium in Arizona. But along the way they are taken prisoner by crooked John Goodman. He keeps Doug and sends the others to find Mr. Chow and a lot of gold that individual apparently stole from Goodman’s character before the events of the first film.
As it happens, Chow has been in communication with Alan, who arranges a meeting in Tijuana. Chow dupes the boys into helping him rob Goodman a second time and then runs off to Las Vegas to spend the money on cocaine and— surprisingly—female prostitutes. The boys of “The Wolfpack” follow.
Despite the best intentions of the filmmakers and the actors, there isn’t much funny going on here. The one laugh I got was late when Alan appeared dressed formally. “You look like Mr. Peanut,” says one of the other men. “I know. That’s what I was going for,” he replies. If you’ve seen previews or ads for the movie, you’ve already seen the giraffe and lollipop bits that are the only other funny passages.
The story does finish off with a resolution of a central problem it announced early in “3”— that Alan can’t go on being an irresponsible boy. But the new film’s story doesn’t resolve any greater problems that have been present in all three films. No rings are disposed of. No evil empires are defeated.
So in what sense is “The Hangover 3” the conclusion of a trilogy? Maybe that business is just there because Phillips and his cast are tired of doing the movies and want to close off the possibility they will be tempted into doing another sequel. That’s all I can think of.