[Screen It]


(2013) (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms) (R)

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Comedy: After a criminal kidnaps their friend, three men try to find and return a Chinese gangster whose actions have once again upended their lives.
Having previously survived wild bachelor parties in both Las Vegas and Thailand where they ended up managing to lose their friend Doug (JUSTIN BARTHA), Stu (ED HELMS), Phil (BRADLEY COOPER) and Doug have decided it's time for an intervention regarding their friend and Doug's brother-in-law, Alan (ZACH GALIFIANAKIS). He's a passive-aggressive man-child who still lives at home with his parents and has been off his meds for half a year. Following his father's death, they set out for a treatment facility where they're going to going to drop him off.

Before they get there, however, they're intercepted by Marshall (JOHN GOODMAN) and his goons. He's upset because a Chinese gangster, Mr. Chow (KEN JEONG), previously stole millions of dollars worth of gold bars from him. Having heard Chow recently escaped from prison, and knowing that the four men know him, Marshall kidnaps Doug and threatens to kill him in several days if they don't find Chow and return him and the gold.

Learning that Chow is headed for Mexico, the three men arrive in Tijuana with plans of drugging and kidnapping Chow. But the criminal outwits them, a development that eventually leads them back to Las Vegas where they hope to meet Marshall's deadline before it's too late for their friend.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
You have to give kudos to people who decide they want to change and do something completely different in their lives. Granted, not all are successful, such as Michael Jordan's attempts to move from being the greatest professional basketball player of all time to trying his hand at playing another type of ball, that being "baseball" (I can just hear James Earl Jones saying that word in "Field of Dreams"). Athletes aren't alone in such moves, as every day people from all sorts of professions decide to switch gears midstream.

It's rarer for movies to do the same as they progress through their sequels. Imagine if "A Nightmare on Elm Street" suddenly turned into "Edward Scissorhands," "Jaws" became "Flipper," or "The Godfather" transitioned into "Three Men and a Baby." It just doesn't happen that much and for good reason. Not only is it difficult to do in terms of making that tonal change, but audiences who've grown accustomed to and thus expect one sort of material often aren't pleased when they suddenly encounter the old switcheroo.

All of which brings us to "The Hangover Part III," a "comedy" that's decidedly bereft of laughs, and not just because the comedic intentions are bungled and not particularly funny (and sometimes just plain mean, especially regarding animals). Instead, it's because returning writer/director Todd Phillips and scribe Craig Mazin apparently decided they didn't want to repeat the genre shenanigans or tone of the original film (which was critically lauded and earned north of $450 million at the worldwide box office) or its near identical, but ill-received if still financially successful (nearly $600 million grossing) 2011 sequel.

It's true that some of the plot is essentially the same in that three of the guys (played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) must once again find the fourth member (Justin Bartha) of their "wolf pack" who's gone missing for the third time in a row (you'd think by now they'd have a GPS tracking system on him). Rather than that occurring due to a wild night of partying and waking up (with the titular malady) to discover he's gone as occurred twice before, however, this time he's kidnapped by a criminal (John Goodman) with very loose ties to the plot of the first film.

It seems that the quartet's constant thorn in their side (Ken Jeong) stole millions of dollars worth of gold bars from the villain and thus the new baddie has kidnapped Doug and is going to kill him if the other three can't deliver the effeminate, jive-talking Chinese gangster. Thus, rather than having to piece together what happened in hung-over detective mode as occurred twice before, they're simply on a search and rescue mission. Where several people are shot and killed, and a giraffe is decapitated (in the opening scene). While our preview audience laughed at various bits here and there, the reaction was far more subdued than in the sequel and especially the original pic. And some of that nearly seemed as if they were reacting that way simply because they thought they were supposed to at certain moments rather than truly finding the material funny.

But the film at its core isn't designed as a comedy. It's more of a crime drama with a few humorous bits thrown in, along with familiar characters who bring the memories of comedic baggage with them, but those suitcases have pretty much been emptied of laughs. I feel as if I should give some kudos to the filmmakers for at least attempting to suddenly steer this franchise in a new direction. Alas, the resultant pic isn't good in its new attire.

Considering the plot eventually gets the group back in Vegas, and that certain elements involve heists of money and such, perhaps it would have been wise to bring back the original film's writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. After all, they made the first film work as well as it did, while Part II and now this offering simply flounder in their attempts regardless of the genres in which they exist.

Another part of the problem with this script is that it switches much of the focus away from Helms and Cooper's characters (both performers appear bored and as if they're going through the motions for contractual reasons) in favor of Galifianakis and Jeong's. It's usually not a good idea to take supporting roles and turn them more into leads, and the effort here suffers as a result. As is oft said, a little of something can go a long way, and that's the case with the duo's characters and the comedy that envelopes them. Give them more time and they become increasingly boorish and what little comedy initially surrounded them becomes dull and repetitive.

That pretty much sums up the overall flick. While the original grew on me over time and with repeated viewings, the second felt recycled and this one's simply awful. You'll likely rather experience your own induced hangover rather than be subjected to the offerings of this third (and hopefully final) outing. "The Hangover Part III" rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed May 20, 2013 / Posted May 23, 2013

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