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The Hangover Part III Movie Review

The Hangover Part III Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art
The Hangover Part III is now available on home video. Click here to read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet combo pack.

The Hangover Part III (2013) movie poster The Hangover Part III

Theatrical Release: May 23, 2013 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Todd Phillips / Writers: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin (screenplay); Jon Lucas, Scott Moore (characters)

Cast: Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Stu Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Ken Jeong (Mr. Leslie Chow), John Goodman (Marshall), Melissa McCarthy (Cassie), Jeffrey Tambor (Sid Garner), Heather Graham (Jade), Mike Epps (Black Doug), Sasha Barrese (Tracy Billings), Jamie Chung (Lauren Price), Sondra Currie (Linda Garner), Gillian Vigman (Stephanie Wenneck), Oliver Cooper (Pharmacy Assistant), Mike Vallely (Nico), Grant Holmquist (Tyler), Oscar Torre (Officer Vasquez), Jonny Coyne (Hector)

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People loved The Hangover for its creative, unpredictable comedy. They were a lot less crazy about The Hangover Part II's decision to recreate every beat from the original film.
Gladly, director Todd Phillips got the message and thus the seemingly needless The Hangover Part III is not only a huge improvement over its immediate predecessor, but about as enjoyable as the first movie without being especially derivative of it.

Kick-starting a competitive Memorial Day Weekend a day early and two years after the previous film, Hangover III is opening to undeniably diminished demand and lowered expectations. After all, it follows a sequel that was more of a relocated remake and though the goodwill earned by the original 2009 film ensured another wildly and unusually profitable showing for an R-rated comedy, viewers were not eager to revisit Part II or hungry to spend more time with "The Wolfpack." This series clearly not conceived as one had the distinct feel of "you've seen one, you've seen them all." Part III defies that seemingly safe assumption, but it may be tough convincing the original movie's fans after the disappointments of a brazen exercise in unoriginality.

The Wolfpack is back and this time not just out of financial responsibility and a steadfast reliance on a proven formula, but for a worthwhile story. Though Phillips and Craig Mazin share screenplay credit as they did on Hangover II, they are less than slavishly devoted to Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's original script. That script's non-linear narrative and Memento-esque structure was critical to the film's unexpected success, but it was all much too distinctive to reproduce beat by beat without people noticing and objecting. Gladly, Phillips and Mazin discard nearly all of the series' hallmarks (the opening phone call, the drug-induced cloudy memories, the wild shenanigans in a notorious city) and just focus on the characters, their camaraderie, and their reactions to out-of-control situations.

"The Hangover Part III" returns Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Stu (Ed Helms) to a Caesars Palace elevator, this time with a stack of towels.

The wise decision is again made to present this as more of a dark crime action adventure than a comedy. As much is evident in the opening scene in which a riot has broken out in a Bangkok prison from which Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has simply broken out, going Andy Dufresne behind a "Hang in there, Kitty" poster. Humor pervades the film, but gladly it's not coasting on Part II's cringeworthy outrageousness or trying to top the rowdy antics of the original film.

Alan, the odd man-child perfectly portrayed by Zach Galifianakis, has always been the lovable comic center of these films and Part III does well by putting him front and center at the start. In his forties but still living carefree in the house of his wealthy parents, Alan is off his meds and in need of an intervention. His buddies, idolized schoolteacher Phil (Bradley Cooper) and dentist Stu (Ed Helms), agree to give him just that by taking him on a two-day drive to a rehab center in Arizona. Why a two-day drive instead of an 80-minute flight? Well, Phillips has kind of made a career out of the road trip and there's a lot more potential for unexpected turns and hilarity in a minivan than in coach or first class.

Indeed, it's only a matter of time before the group's reliably absentee fourth friend Doug (Justin Bartha) takes leave, this time as the genuine hostage of an irate crime boss named Marshall (John Goodman). Brilliantly, Phillips and Mazin have turned a throwaway line in the original film into the seed of an idea that drives this outing. The Wolfpack's past reckless misadventures have caught up with them, if only for their repeated association with international criminal Chow, who has gone off-grid post-prison escape, having stolen $21 million in gold bars from Marshall. Marshall and his men, including "Black Doug" (Mike Epps), the utterer of the aforementioned throwaway line, have narrowed their focus to these four relatively ordinary friends because Alan has maintained contact with the excitable Chinese fugitive.

Mr. Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) assumes a more substantial role in "The Hangover Part III" than in either of its predecessors. John Goodman joins the fray as Marshall, a crime boss looking for retribution.

And so, another adventure begins at a bus stop in Tijuana. As suggested by Jeong's pre-title billing, Mr. Chow has been upgraded to essentially a co-lead and an honorary Wolfpack member who makes Alan look stable. Starting with an elaborate break-in at Chow's seized, secure former home, the twisty events play out in the present with a fitting amount of callbacks to raucous past excursions. The journey appropriately returns the gang to Las Vegas, where they reconnect with some old friends, settled-down former escort Jade (Heather Graham) and her no longer infant child (Grant Holmquist, whose reprisal provides the most potent of the film's few surprisingly poignant moments), and make a new one in a tough Billy Joel-loving pawn shop owner (Melissa McCarthy).

Just when you thought this series had run its course and was sure to see its entertainment value further decline as it struggled to invent variations on memorable exchanges and misjudgments, Phillips and his cast provide plenty of surprises and a nearly two-hour reminder of the original film's abundant appeal.
Instead of trying to raise the shock value bar and honor a whole bunch of insignificant traditions, Phillips tones down some of the lunacy and treats these characters like real friends in a tight situation, a relatable basis for a taut, cinematic, and fun adventure where the comedy flows but never at the expense of an investable story.

The film even surprisingly yet admirably abandons the popular missing camera device used at the end of its two predecessors and opts for a downright tender, almost touching finale. But, fear not, those wanting more laughs than provided, because there's a brief tag shortly into the end credits that takes its place in the series' tradition of chaotic wake-up scenes and quickly serves up a dose of the craziness some might miss from this more mature and exciting episode that ends the trilogy on a high note.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Todd Phillips: The Hangover The Hangover Part II Due Date Road Trip | Now in Theaters: Iron Man 3 The Great Gatsby
Zach Galifianakis: The Campaign Youth in Revolt Dinner for Schmucks Puss in Boots
Bradley Cooper: Silver Linings Playbook The Words He's Just Not That Into You
Ed Helms: Cedar Rapids Jeff, Who Lives at Home Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Ken Jeong: Transformers: Dark of the Moon | John Goodman: The Big Lebowski Argo Flight Arachnophobia
Justin Bartha: National Treasure | Heather Graham: ExTerminators Scrubs: The Complete Fourth Season

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Reviewed May 23, 2013.



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