“The Hangover Part III” [MOVIE REVIEW]

A review by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an author, blogger and Twitterer.

RATING: 1 star (out of 4)

Say what you will about the horrible, stupid, unfunny, dull, pathetic – and, did I mention horrible? – The Hangover Part III, at least you have to give it this: The movie lives up to its name.

It totally feels like a hangover. The exhaustion and aimlessness. The jackhammering that seems to be coming from inside your dulled, weakened brain. The overwhelming urge to crawl somewhere, curl up and cower, shivering until the horror passes. And especially the urge to drink heavily to chase away the pain.

I feel mentally and physically violated by this movie, and I wasn’t even expecting much. I am such a floozie for dumb, offensive, bromantic comedies, I thought the ambition-less The Hangover Part II, which copied the format and jokes of the first movie, was good enough to see twice in the theater.

All the filmmakers needed to do was round up the same dudes, jot down a few dick and drunk jokes, make a couple of them question friendship before letting them settle things through zany male bonding, and I would have been OK.

The moviemakers called it after the dude rounding-up step. I’m not even sure a script is necessary when you round up the talents of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong and, especially, Zach Galifianakis. Just gather them in a room, set up a camera and magic is bound to happen. But the script actively works to neutralize their comedic abilities. It’s as though a dark wizard cast a spell that robbed them all of their sense of timing, intelligence and zeal for life.

Sure, the Wolfpack is back in action and forced into improbable situations, but any heart or rhythm from past movies has waved bye-bye. In the past movies, the characters had purpose and enough depth to see you or your friends in them.

Before, Cooper was the burned-out family man, longing for any opportunity to let his suppressed, rowdy self out for a ride. Helms was the uptight dentist with a Wildman Jekyll lurking just beneath the surface. And Galifianakis was the proudly ignorant wildcard, able to unleash torrents of laughs with a single mispronounced word. The Wolfpack’s antics worked because the guys were a mismatched gang of doofuses, compounding ill-advised macho mistakes to descend the levels of hell.

Now they’re all cartoonish caricatures, ordered around on a pointless joyride by a gangster played by John Goodman. Jeong once again plays the villain, having roped in the Pack for swiping his gold bars. Goodman’s character really should have gone after the likes of Glenn Beck for encouraging him to invest so heavily in the precious metal before the market crashed. But instead, Goodman coerces the Wolfpack to hunt down Jeong’s character in Tijuana, then, for no good reason other than budget-enhancing casino product placements, Las Vegas. We see them crawling around, pretending to be dogs to avoid setting off an alarm, hanging from casino scaffoldings and scoring roofies from a pharmacy.

Galifianakis runs free early on, spitting some awkwardly funny lines, but his act quickly comes off as trying too hard to copy his past craziness. You want to pat him on the head, thank him for trying and tell him to go sit in the corner until it’s time to leave.

Once the drudgery finally ended, sighs and grunts of disappointment echoed through the theater. The previous Hangover movies ended with photo slide shows played out over the credits, but that doesn’t happen this time. And the reason is simple: when nothing interesting happens, nobody pulls out a camera.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong and John Goodman. Written by Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin, based on characters by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. Directed by Phillips. Rated R. 100 minutes.

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