– a bit awkward to watch, sometimes seems sad and lost, and then there are those moments, those brilliant moments…
The wolf pack: Ed Helms, Zack Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and, uh… you know, that other guy, are back in action. Given the massive success of previous entries, yet the pronounced similarity between them, it’s an interesting question, what sort of adventure the third installment would entail. The writers know well what works and heard what was criticized, making a solid effort to maintain the bombastic adventure, and trying hard to apply it to a strongly divergent story framework. It’s a risky move, and fairly successful.
The old story format, where the crew wakes up with amnesia, and must work their way backwards to determine what happened has been abandoned. How many times can we drug them before they start to catch on, anyway? Instead, we begin with a fade-in to an Asian commander, marching in uniform. Everything happens in slow motion while a tragic opera blares. The commander approaches a large, heavy, industrial looking door which opens into a scene of incomprehensible mayhem. Fires in all direction, appliances flying, objects smashing, throngs of people clawing and fighting, screaming. The commander passes through it all, as if immune. As he comes out the other side, he sees something – something that enrages him. Something infinitely more catastrophic than everything he just walked through. Fade out.
On the other side of planet earth, the wolf pack enjoys the halcyon days of summer. Especially Alan, who’s gone off his meds. The boys convince Alan he needs some time in rehab, and a calmer, more respectable road trip ensues. It doesn’t take long for things to go pear shaped and, true to Hangover convention, Doug is taken out of the equation. The poor guy is such a red headed step-child, Justin Bartha isn’t even listed in the Rottentomatoes cast credits! Anyway, a mafia guy (John Goodman) explains exactly what the situation is, and exactly what needs to happen to solve their mutual dilemma.
Up until here, the familiar comedy is front and center. But from here, the film slowly takes on a different tone, and much, though not all of the usual humor is downplayed. This becomes a drag, especially as the set pieces and adventures seem disappointingly terrestrial: Houses, highways, parking lots, bars, pawn shops, and a police station – barely a desk in dusty office, really. Thankfully, things pick up steam in the third act as we stroll back into Las Vegas. Once there, action sequences, set pieces, stunts, drugs, strippers – everything we love about their adventures – is back on display. Some of these scenes will make you cringe in your seat, and then launch you into a fit of laughter – if you like this sort of thing.
Director/Creator Todd Philips takes a risk by changing the structure of the storyline, while doing his best to maintain the franchise’s comedic schtick, and it works when the jokes are flowing. The middle of the film needs more of that charm, more adventure, or just less middle.
Warner Bros. has been slow out the gate this year. So far, their releases include:
GANGSTER SQUADBULLET TO THE HEADBEAUTIFUL CREATURESJACK THE GIANT SLAYERTHE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE42THE GREAT GATSBY, andTHE HANGOVER PART III
While each is at least a competent film, and a few are genuinely good films, none has been a breakout success. And, gross receipts have shown a gradual growth pattern from the earlier films’ disastrous to the later films barely respectable. The Hangover Part III is, so far, in second place behind Fast & Furious 6, by a significant margin. Consider that Hangover has been a stratospheric franchise, while Fast & Furious has been very popular but not of the Hangover’s caliber. Interestingly, Fast & Furious isn’t just enjoying colossal box office success, it also defies convention with its 5th and 6th installments being the best rated films in the series – by miles. The bottom line is, perhaps Warner Brothers gambled and lost, pitting Hangover against that juggernaut this weekend.
It would be no surprise to see this slow walk to success continue as Warner Brothers’ entire year of releases just seems to get more and more illustrious: The Man of Steel opens in June, followed by Pacific Rim in July, then THE CONJURING, the comedy WE’RE THE MILLERS with Jennifer Aniston, GETAWAY, PRISONERS, GRAVITY, SEVENTH SON, the sci-fi drama HER, and finally, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG in December.