Our evangelical team of reviewers is here to protect you from the evils of the world! Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider takes on the demon drink as seen in The Hangover Part III, then Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade attempts to exorcise Epic of its talking slugs, clearly a sign of demonic presence.
EXPECTATIONS: Having grown up in a small town, I'm sadly familiar with that one guy who goes to Little League games, sneaks beer into the stands, tears his shirt off and starts screaming at the coaches. He's not even anybody's dad, he's just like an uncle or a cousin or something, and I hate him, but I also feel sorry for him because I know he takes this so seriously because it's all he has? In my brain, that's director Todd Phillips. For ten years, he's been dedicated to this idea that grown men acting like they've never had beer before is funny, when, in truth, it's a little pitiful.
Despite this, I've always been a fan of the first Hangover film, because writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also made this year's surprisingly good 21 and Over, basically crafted a well-thought-out mystery script and threw in some funny gags. This is part of why Hangover II was so bad; Returning director Phillips clearly worked from a checklist that read "All the jokes from the first one, also Stu gets raped," and then just wrote the plot around that. I'm assuming they wouldn't dare do that to us again, but maybe that's giving these people entirely too much credit.
REALITY: I walked away from this one with a newfound respect for Todd Phillips, though I'm still positive that at some point in his life, possibly this month, he has insisted people refer to him as "Todd The Bod." It seems as though Phillips really took some of the criticisms of Hangover II to heart, and he tried to create a stand-alone feature that expands upon some of the concepts and themes that made the first film good. Enough works here to make it abundantly, infuriatingly clear that Todd Phillips actually has more than a modicum of talent; he just mostly chooses not to use it.
Aimless wandering through familiar situations: The Hangover sequels in a nutshell.
Hangover III takes us away from weddings for a little while, and instead opens at a funeral. After the deaths of his father (Jeffrey Tambor) and a poorly CGI-ed giraffe (not Jeffrey Tambor), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) faces an intervention at the hands of his wolfpack buddies, who want him to go back on his medication and check into a mental home, proving once and for all that there is in fact something mentally wrong with this guy. (In a parallel-universe movie, they actually make it to the mental home, and that's the beginning of It's Kind of a Funny Story.)
When Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) try to road-trip Alan to the institution, they are attacked by a drug lord named Marshall (John Goodman), who conscripts the crew into finding recently escaped prisoner Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong's ridiculously tiny penis). To do this, he takes Doug hostage, because apparently Justin Bartha's contract says he can only be on set for like three days per movie.
Upon finding Chow, the gang alternately helps and hunts him, and that's where some of the original Hangover concepts come in. Similar to how that film was essentially a follow-the-clues mystery, Hangover III is actually a decent heist/revenge thriller. Phillips is very aware that this is what he's making, and as part of the loving genre homage, he fills the dialogue with as many of those cliches as he can think of: "I swore I would never go back," "You just don't get it, do you?" - they're all here. It works, however, because you can tell they're supposed to be there.
Phillips executes several incredibly well-shot sequences, including an intriguing opening-credit bit that follows Chow's escape from prison. He clearly emulates Steven Soderbergh's style, and that's fine, because if you're gonna rip someone off, that's a fine mark. The Hangover has a lot in common with the Ocean's franchise anyway (for example, they're both only good when they're in Vegas), so it makes perfect sense. There's even some genuine tension, a first for the franchise.
Oh good, it's this guy again.There's a sense of maturity to this film -- I really didn't want to use that word, but it's true. By ending this film with some genuine character development, Phillips is clearly apologizing for Hangover II, and he's also saying that even he has grown tired of the drunken shenanigans. It's probably for this reason that it's not great strictly from a comedic standpoint, as Hangover I was. Well, that and the fact that Mr. Chow isn't funny, and the movie puts him in as many shots as possible. I hate that character so much. My first instinct is to call him a massive stereotype, but I don't even know what he's a stereotype of. Damn bisexual-cokehead-Asian-criminal sociopaths, they're all the same.
This is a year wherein my favorite film to date was directed by the much-Internet-hated Michael Bay, and now there's the sudden revelation that Todd Phillips has been keeping his secret abilities hidden. I've always been a fan of non-Transformers Bay, but I'll lump myself in with the backlash against Phillips. I think this anger and animosity toward these directors from film nerds, or just nerds in general, stems from the fact that we see them as outsiders in our super-secret movie club. Directors like Bay and Phillips are seen as the jocks and frat boys of Hollywood, the guys that beat nerds up in high school, and now they think they can come and infringe in our sacred ground?
In doing this, we are ignoring that it's difficult to get anywhere in movies, with a few notable Kevin Smith-sized exceptions, without knowing quite a bit more about movies than the average person. I have chastised Phillips in the past because I don't really find much of what he does that funny. However, if you're still doubting his abilities as a filmmaker after this movie because you think he fits into a stereotype of moviegoers, then, frankly, grow the fuck up. He clearly has.
The film closes with a mid-credits scene that emulates the "waking up" scene from the first movie, a scene I didn't realize was so iconic until I watched it pay homage to itself. It's easy to think that it's a setup for a fourth film, but it's so over-the-top and inconsistent with the rest of the film's tone, it's pretty clearly meant to be parody. It's Phillips saying "Look guys, wouldn't it be fuckin' stupid if we did this?", proving my point that he knows exactly what he's doing.
|So Much Chow||0/10|
|The "Most-Improved" Award||10/10|
MINORITY REPORT: Hey man, if Todd Phillips is such a fuckin' smart director, why did it take him three Hangover movies to make one all about the Zach Galifisnackman character? - Kevin "Too Fat For Film School" Smith
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