The Hangover III starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and oh wait, Oscar winner Bradley Cooper is pretty much what you'd expect. Funny, but not uproarious, and though it's decidedly better than the lame second installment, it's still not as good as the first. There are a couple scenes that might be worth the price of admission, particularly the cameo by Melissa McCarthy. Writer/director Todd Phillips didn't really miss with any of the gags, nor did he make too many lazy, non-joke callbacks to the previous movies. I was afraid that I was in for another groan-fest like Hangover II, and while they may have played it a bit safe compared to the instant classic that was the original, I can't say I wasn't entertained.
Phillips made some very smart choices in this film. First, he didn't try to write yet another story that starts with the morning after. Watching the wolfpack learn second-hand about their drug-induced debauchery had been completely played out by the thirty minute mark in Hangover II, and the eventual triteness of it was a major detractor from that second movie. This time the boys are on a fresh adventure that doesn't involve any blacking out at all. The plot is still remarkably similar: Alan, Stu and Phil are on a search for one friend so they can get back another friend, which leads them on a wild goose-chase that culminates in a stand-off in the desert. Yet somehow, it doesn't feel that way. I only noticed long after the credits rolled just how many parallels there were, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it subtle homage rather than hackneyed repetitiveness.
Another wise decision was moving away from the pure raunchiness of the second film. Of course it was still pretty raw sometimes, but much more of the humor came from throwaway jokes and little one-liners. There were many more scenes like the one from the first film where Alan inquires whether the real Caesar had ever lived in Caesar's Palace. Though the highlights are still the wild slapstick sequences, balancing those scenes with funny dialogue was crucial to the overall enjoyability.
But perhaps the best aspect of the Hangover III was their utilization of Zach Galifianakis. He absolutely dominates the first part of the movie until Ken Jeong shows up, and delivers a command performance. His face is remarkably expressive, which only makes the rest of his physical comedy that much more hilarious. Working opposite the extremely funny Melissa McCarthy, he was able to display the masterful awkward timing that he's honed on his web series, Between Two Ferns. Their scenes are just excellent, and I hope to see them together again soon. The one knock against Galifianakis is that I wish he could have done a slightly better job lip-syncing Ave Maria. That gag simply didn't work for me. All I could think about was Will Ferrel's iconic performance of "Dust in the Wind" from Old School, and how much this scene paled in comparison.
My only other complaint about the film was that they asked too much of Ken Jeong. Chow's silly accent might add a little extra humor to catch-phrases and one-liners, but it made his longer expositional speeches annoying to follow as Jeong often struggled to maintain the voice. I'm a big fan of his work on Community, so it was a little disappointing to watch him fall short. I suppose he is just a doctor after all.
So should you go see Hangover III? I think you can probably wait until this one is on Netflix or the like, but it's definitely worth watching. It largely redeemed the franchise from its disastrous second effort, and actually managed to get me a little excited when they teased us about a possible fourth film during the closing credits.