I like what veteran screenwriter Larry Gross has said on multiple occasions about the script for “The Hangover”: each scene in Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s script is in a logical succession, without attempting to top-top-topper those preceding. The simplicity is its existential horror. Plus: the inspired cleverness of the pack of pictures at the end that explain each and every missing element, making the entire movie flash through your mind, newly illuminated. What is a “Hangover” movie? Probably not “The Hangover Part III.” While the now-familiar characters get their lives scrambled, the chronology is straight-ahead and a desultory caper plot unwinds with undue deliberation in this latest “Todd Phillips Movie”: it’s the single-note fixations of the “Wolf Pack” from start to finish. Money means everything. It’s the kind of life you’d dream on a diet of Skittles and Jagermeister and Dos Equis. Phillips and his actors (Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and the all-but-invisible Justin Bartha) have taken on the freedom to free-disassociate from the success of the previous two features. But it’s only wan nonsense with intermittent animal cruelty and lots of lunar Galifianakis. “C’mon, he killed a giraffe, who gives a fuck?” is funny only when you’re aghast at how one-note loathsome a character can be. See under: Bradley Cooper. Most every line Cooper spits has some variation on fuck-fuck-fucking within it. Aiming for cheeky, “The Hangover Part III” settles for malign. The sweetest cheeky timing comes when Ken Jeong’s Chow says “Give us some sugar” to Galifianakis on a Tijuana bus bench and Galifianakis gives him some on his cheek. In snakeskin cowboy hat and big dark sunglasses, Jeong looks the perfect copy of late-era Michael Cimino. His crisp, seething malice goes beyond the racial caricature: he’s just a well-pleased maniac. There is one moment of inspired reaction: as a pawnshop clerk with her own issues, Melissa McCarthy’s riffling, ribald visible chill as Galifianakis snakes a wrapper off a cherry lolly. That’s performance. That’s charisma. Then again, Chow aloft in the center of Las Vegas on a body parachute after leaping from a Caesars Palace balcony, shouting “I love cocaine!” has a viable truth to it. Phillips ought to go full noir now that the opening of this “comedy” tumbled downward, to turn his vaunted willfulness into a more existential intransigence. Face the fates and fight them, Todd. The look and feel of this movie out-John Dahls John Dahl already: the frames and light of Sher’s cinematography deserve more than a merely fallen world. With John Goodman, meh. 100m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“The Hangover Part III” is now playing.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.