The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

There are some actors that I don’t know how to feel about. I used to like some of their films, then they produced several off-the-boil films that did nothing for me. They were well meaning, but weren’t good. No, I’m not talking about Adam Sandler, who has produced several great movies years (and years) ago, but has been producing dross ever since. They weren’t “well meaning” films… they were just dross. Pure dross. Ok, I’m done with typing “dross”. Unfortunately, Will Smith is falling into this category now, as he’s not produced a solid hit in a little while now; it seems like his golden era is behind him. But this isn’t a review of a Will Smith film… it focuses on Ben Stiller

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a big screen adaptation of a decades-old short story, this time starring and directed by Ben Stiller as the eponymous character. Walter works for a magazine called Life (imagine National Geographic), which is now coming to a close. Walter works in the photographic department and is charged with producing the front covers. So when the “perfect” picture arrives from illusive top photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) and it’s missing… well… this causes some problems for Walter. But that’s not all; Walter is a dreamer. A day dreamer of the greatest magnitude. His life is very “routine” and orderly, but he often escapes into a land of fantasy, cooking up elaborate visions of the world around him. But questing off after Sean adds a bit of spice to this ordinary life…

So, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has two sides to it: the mystery of “where is the picture, and how do I track down Sean?” and the fantasies cooked up in Walter’s head. This is also a bit of a problem with an otherwise charming and heart-warming film. The root of this problem lies with the fact that the story cannot decide whether it’s a comedy, or an adventure film. Some of Ben Stiller‘s past work has been very cut-and-dry: comedy or drama. This? Well… this veers between the two.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The strengths of the film lie in the dramatic adventures that unravel for Walter, and not the comedy. The comedic elements start off entertaining, but the more the plot develops, the more of a hindrance these jokes become. They come across as jarring and terribly out of place. However, if you can get past these jokes, you’ll uncover what is a beautiful story that’s lovingly shot and brought to the big screen. What really worked was Stiller‘s attention to cinematography, helped along in no small measure by shooting on location in Iceland and Greenland. Further, the accompanying music really adds to the “epic” nature of the film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The plot was genuinely fun and it developed in an interesting way. Even the love story secondary subplot managed to twist enough to not be entirely contrived. Hell, it’s nice to see a single mum (played by Kristen Wiig) shown as the desirable love interest for once in a movie! But I need to return to the comedy element. At first, Mitty’s zoning out introduces excuses for either bombastic action sequences or for Stiller to dress up in costume and exercise some of his comedic muscles. Sure, he is funny… but it seems out of place considering the tone of the rest of the film. The light-hearted comedy that “flows” naturally into the pace of proceedings does work really well though. I understand that the tearaway sections are integral to the Walter Mitty story, but I just found myself more drawn to the “normal” story and the character arc of the protagonist. Sure, this arc is predictable and you can see what’ll happen from the outset, but it’s still fun to see. And ultimately, it proves one thing: growing beards makes you far more rugged and adventurous. Best grow myself a beard then…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a heartwarming film perfectly suited to the Christmas period. Sure, some of the film’s tone is uneven and the comedic and dramatic elements don’t gel too well, but this can be overlooked, as the core story is exciting and enraptures. I’ve been dubious about what to expect from Stiller in recent years, as I can’t say I’ve actively sought out one of his movies since Tropic Thunder, but this was definitely worth the trip.

So I’ll admit it… I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Stiller here. I can’t say I was actively looking forward to the film, as the trailers made it out to be another case of “let’s dress in funny wigs and have accents”, but it wasn’t! Maybe Will Ferrell will be next to produce a film that goes against the grain and is genuinely good… Wait, it’s a bit early for an April Fools joke isn’t it?

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Cult status. It’s a bit of a ‘buzz term’. Typically, it means a film that came out at the cinema, didn’t do too well / attract too much buzz, but went on to become a hit in the home market thanks to DVDs and TV showings. These types of films then become quotable, and quotes permeate into daily discourse. These start off being quite cool – “oh yeah! I saw that movie too! Great line!”, but typically descend into overuse in no time at all. Several of these films have emerged and spring to mind for The Phage. Oddly, quite a few of them seem to feature Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, or a combination of the two. Funnily enough, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is the sequel to what I would regard as the most over-quoted and over-referenced film in recent memory… So can this long-gestating sequel add more quotes to the library or are we… Well…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Let’s get one thing clear from the get go: I’m not a fan of the original Anchorman, nor am I the greatest fan of Will Ferrell‘s schtick. It all comes off as too staid, too low brow and down-right too unfunny. It just grates. I saw the original Anchorman, found it mildly amusing in places, but never felt the urge to return to it over and over again, like so many others. Plus, what has Will Ferrell produced in subsequent years that has been of note at all? You’ll struggle. He’s had cameos here and there, but none of it has been remotely funny. It just consists of him shouting combinations of words. That’s not humour. Or maybe it is, and I’m just too old for it?

Regardless, Anchorman 2 “picks up” where the first film left off: Ron Bergundy (Will Ferrell) and his new wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are San Diego’s top news anchors, but it all falls apart when Ron is fired. He’s subsequently asked to join GNN – the first 24 hour news network over in New York City; thus leading him to reunite the gang (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell) to make TV history. Add in a few random plot twists (read: random, not clever) and you’ve essentially got the premise of the film right there.

Anchorman 2 (2013)

Now, it’s not the basic nature of the plot that bothers me. Dumb & Dumber, which is another “cult” film that’s highly quoted (that I truly love) had a plot revolve around delivering a briefcase. It wasn’t big, nor was it clever, but it was funny. This is something that Anchorman 2 fails to be on all levels. The jokes either wear out their welcome very fast (see the image earlier), miss their mark entirely or are just copy and pastes from the original. Really, I shouldn’t have expected any less from Will Ferrell, as he’s not a gifted comedian given recent evidence.

The humour quickly resorts to trying to “shock” the audience with race jokes, which miss their mark entirely, or focus (and then come to rely upon) Steve Carrell‘s Brick character. You remember the “I love lamp” jokes from the first Anchorman? That was funny, right? Well, imagine that same type of humour on repeat, but becoming more stupid and more infantile every time to the point that it just becomes awkward to watch. It eventually turns into “oh no… here comes another Brick joke”. Yes, we get it, he’s mentally challenged, or slow, or whatever angle you’re gunning for…

Anchorman 2 (2013)

It’s quite telling that the most memorable moments were the cameos. It had people gasping and nigh-on applauding to see some of them. Although I won’t ruin the fun for anyone here, it’s easily the best bit of the film: seeing who else is in here! It’s ruining nothing to say that the film of course has walk ons from some of Will Ferrell‘s acting buddies that he’s appeared in numerous films with. Plus, within the first two minutes of the film you have a walk-on from Drake (who won’t be the only hip-hop star to grace the screen). What’s more interesting is the calibre of some of the actors that appear in the closing 15 minutes. You’ve got some true A listers of comedy, film and musuic, and some true movie whores too; ones that’ll seemingly appear in anything nowadays. The fact that the “ooo, who’s next?” was the best bit of the film is rather telling… as it didn’t actually feature Will Ferrell all that much.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a legend that is hopefully now concluded. Surely this cannot be stretched into a trilogy?! But I guess if the money pours in at the box office, then we may inevitably see Anchorman 3: The Legend Concludes. Ultimately, if you enjoyed Anchorman and could laugh over and over again at those jokes, then this film will probably appease you. If, like me, you found the first film a bit “too” stupid, then this will do nothing to change your mind.

We’re just hoping that Dumb & Dumber To doesn’t fall into the same bin as Anchorman 2. Surely Jeff Daniels & Jim Carrey can pull out another classic as Harry and Lloyd? But that’s the risk… if you produce a “cult” classic then return to it several (or nigh-on 20 years later for Dumb & Dumber) you’re running a huge risk. I’ve yet to see it work for a comedy if I’m honest, as the temptation’s there to just repeat past jokes. Here’s hoping Harry and Lloyd had done wonders with that worm farm… and it’s not just that Petey’s head’s fallen off. Again.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

The Heat (2013)

The Heat (2013)

Buddy comedies… they’re nothing new. The formula is tried and tested. Normally, you take a tight ass and a slob / someone that doesn’t play by the rules and pair them together. The hilarity should therefore ensue. It’s quite honestly one of the most established forms of comedy you’ll get. I was going to list some examples here, but you’re all well aware of the films, right? Come on… I don’t need to list them. Good? Good. Glad we’re on the same page. That being said, if you’re going to attempt to pull it off in 2013, you best be packing some high calibre comedy ammo in that script, or have some lead actors in place that can pull it off with aplomb. This brings us to The Heat, which is conforming to every buddy film stereotype under the sun. Hell, it’s even a cop-based buddy movie… but with two solid female leads and the guy that wrote Bridesmaids behind it… is it hot, tepid or frankly cold and damp?

The Heat focuses on the team up of Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) – the uptight FBI Special Agent that doesn’t really get along with many people, but is amazing at her job, and Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) – the down-and-gritty Boston beat cop that has her own “unique” approach to police work. Between them they need to locate and take down a drug kingpin… and that’s it. That’s the plot, but it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure what you were expecting from it really. That’s not to short change the film though, as it does have its narrative twists and turns, but overall it’s a pretty straight-up, down-the-line, by-the-numbers, lots-of-hyphens type of film. Does it suffer from that? Well… a little.

The Heat (2013)

The strength of this film MUST rest with its lead actors, and thankfully both Bullock and McCarthy are on form here. Bullock always does a good job of playing the naive one in a “buddy” film, with Demolition Man springing to the forefront of my mind… damn, now that’s a good movie. Anyway, back on track, she’s solid and reliable, as always. McCarthy, similarly is establishing herself as a comedic force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. The fact that so much of the scripting in this is ad-libbed is also gratifying to know, as I think it keeps things fresh and lets the emotions run wild with the actors. All that being said… I just didn’t find the film overly funny. It had its scenes that made me smile, but nothing really made me guffaw.

Maybe this all comes back to the hard and cold fact that I’m a hard taskmaster to please. In my screening, a good chunk of the audience were whooping and laughing at absolutely anything. If I’m honest, I think they’d also have got equally excited at watching water hit the windscreen on a car. They just seemed quite simple. I’m not joking… there’s a scene where Melissa McCarthy drinks a pint. Nothing funny: just drinking. That’s apparently funny. I clearly don’t “get it”. Maybe McCarthy is a lot like Zach Galiafianakis – you either find every one of his motions hysterical, or you really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. This isn’t to say I don’t find McCarthy funny, as I do, but I don’t hang off of her every motion.

Oh they so don't get along... I wonder if that'll change?

Oh they so don’t get along… I wonder if that’ll change?

The real issue with the film is inherent to the genre… it’s all too predictable. The characters are flawed, and you immediately know what the outcome will be. There are no elaborate tricks or techniques to shake up the formula; it all plays out exactly as you’d expect. The film therefore needs to fall back on its humour, which for the most part seems to please general audiences, although I did find myself lacking as I’ve just babbled on about. Speaking of babbling, I’m also finding myself running out of words to describe this film. Perhaps that’s the true issue with the film… I just struggled to really care about it. I felt like I could have walked out 1/3 of the way in and predicted everything that’d happen. Even the jokes, thanks to the trailers giving away the big laughs. With that said… let’s take this review off the heat and let it cool shall we?

The Heat has its moments, and thanks to two strong leads will keep fans of raucous comedies entertained. However, for the rest of us seeking something a bit more cerebral or interesting it falls short of the mark. The plotting is too predictable and the jokes sometimes just feel too cheap to really enthral The Phage. Maybe that’s due our Britishness in not finding a Boston accent *the* most hilarious thing you’ve ever heard (it’s not)… that forms a good 5 minutes of joke space in this film, for instance. So whilst not a failure, The Heat certainly only delivers a luke-warm slice of cinematic comedy.

I almost wonder if there’s a book in Hollywood containing the “A-Z of Buddy Cop Clichés”. Whilst The Heat didn’t conform to every single stereotype, it hardly reinvented the wheel either. Hell, even adding a third lead character would make for a slightly different “buddy” film. Or maybe Me, Myself and Irene already pseudo did that with Jim Carrey‘s split personalities? Who knows! Regardless, I’ve already made my “heat” based puns in the previous paragraph… so let’s just end this shall we? See… even I can repeat lines, just like The Heat, really…

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars

The World’s End (2013)

The World's End (2013)

It’s weird how most successful film franchises come in threes. It seems we all like a trilogy, but get a bit bored when a series hits four or five films, for some odd reason. Indeed, the era of the four-to-five film franchises seems to have ended in the early 1990’s / late 1980’s. Well, on the whole anyway, as it seems that horror movies have no problem pumping out sixth and seventh instalments in franchises (I’m looking at you Saw). But then again, they’re typically low budget, high return films, so it’s no surprise. That’s not always the case with the pricier films. So with all that said, we now see a film emerging to conclude a trilogy. And this is no typical trilogy. In fact, the only tenuous link between the three films are its two lead actors and director / writer… oh, and an obsession with talking about that classic coned ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Yes, the thrilling conclusion to the The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is here… enter, The World’s End.

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Confused how this is a trilogy? Can’t remember the films that went before? How can this be true?! Almost a decade ago we had the awakening of Shaun of the Dead: a film about romance set to the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse in London. Three years later we had Hot Fuzz, a buddy cop movie about life in rural England with murderous, bombastic undertones. And now, some six years later, we have The World’s End, a film about a pub crawl with an apocalyptic setting. What ties the films together? The Cornettos, the acting talent on display and the most valuable asset of all… British humour.

The World’s End, at its core, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director Edgar Wright who co-writes with Pegg. This time around, Pegg plays Gary King – the leader of the gang (from school). He’s intent on reliving his youth and completing a 12-pub pub crawl he couldn’t finish with his buddies when he was 18. So, he reunites the gang, rounded out by estranged best friend Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), to once again undertake his crawl some 20 years later. But things are awry in Newton Haven (a typical British town)… everyone’s acting somewhat oddly. Yes, Gary and the gang uncover a somewhat sinister secret of a global takeover by an extra-terrestrial force. Best reach for the Cornettos then.

The World's End (2013)

Shaun of the Dead is a hard act to follow for Pegg, Frost and Wright. I’d argue that Hot Fuzz didn’t live up to my expectations and fell somewhat flat. Others would say that Hot Fuzz was superior to the zombie-fuelled exploits that went before it. And obviously, people will argue where The World’s End fits into this threesome. Plus, for the sake of argument, we’re not including Paul in this debate, as Wright had no part in the film… and it’s set in the US. We’re strictly British here I’ll have you know! Where do I figure that The World’s End lands? Keep reading… Or skim to the end if you’re bored of reading already.

What I particularly enjoyed about The World’s End was the dark tone of the movie, particularly Simon Pegg‘s Gary King. In previous films you’ve been able to warm to Pegg‘s character almost instantly. Particularly in Shaun of the Dead. But here? I found myself strongly disliking him almost immediately. I was worried actually, as the first 20 minutes dragged somewhat for me, as I found myself unwilling to take Pegg‘s King under my wing and care about him. He has issues. He needs to grow up. And therein lies the message of this film… we all have to grow up and move on at some point. Life marches onwards and sometimes you have to march on alongside it or be left behind.

The World's End (2013)

Sorry, I went a bit deep there didn’t I? Aside from Pegg‘s character and the plot’s undertones, the film is replete with laughter-inducing moments. Not many belly laughs, I must add, but a lot of smiles and sniggers. But then again, I’m a hard Phage to impress; some might say I’m a snob for comedy. What I like? I really like. What I don’t? I detest. But The World’s End worked in the humour stakes. It also worked well in the plotting stakes too. The film constantly twists and turns to try and buck the viewer off its back, right up to the final scenes. I like this. Especially when it’s coupled to the deliciously British dark humour that the film draws on.

The World's End (2013)

As for the acting talent on show… we’ve got some fine British acting on show here. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of talent marching across the world stage thanks to “newbies” such as Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You can also say the same of Simon Pegg nowadays, as he’s in hot demand, which is good to see. Arguably, it’s Nick Frost‘s character that was the highlight for me. A somewhat stifled lawyer who’s clearly shellshocked from his past. But when he lets rip? He lets rip. His character had the most interesting arc for me here. But having said that, the whole ensemble add real weight here thanks to Wright and Pegg‘s scripting fleshing out each character. Similarly, this is definitely an Edgar Wright film, from the stylistic shots of pints being pulled to the flavour of the dialogue. Let’s hope he can bring the same bold style to Marvel’s Ant-Man when that hits in 2015…

The World’s End will definitely be a hit with old Cornetto fans; it brings back the humour, the bromance and the clever social commentary that was present in the previous two films, but adds a new plot on top of it. Having said that, there are slow moments and it’ll take you time to warm to all of the characters, but once the film really starts rolling towards the apocalypse you’re sucked into the world entirely. Once again, us Brits show the world how humour should be done… less raunch, dick jokes and boobs, and more sarcasm, wit and use of the c-word. Yeah… we know how to offend and amuse in equal amounts!

So which Cornetto flavour is my favourite? Is it strawberry (Shaun of the Dead), vanilla (Hot Fuzz) or mint (The World’s End)? In the real world, I’d plump for mint. But perhaps it’s telling that my last trip to the supermarket saw me return with a box of five strawberry Cornettos (for 99p! Cheap!)… it was an omen. For me, Shaun of the Dead will remain the best in this series of three films, like your first true love, it’s sometimes hard to top (but can happen). The World’s End is a very close second though and is one I could go back and watch again. I’m always partial to a bit of mint, especially if its sprinkled with some truly dark chocolate / humour…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End (2013)

You know what I like? When films are meta and self-referential. When they’re not afraid to mock themselves or even parody themselves to some extent. I like it even more when actors are willing to poke fun at themselves on-screen. I mean, they must all be aware of their public persona and the way they’re depicted in the media. That’s why it’s great when they get involved with roles / pieces that poke fun at themselves, no matter how subtly. From Zach Galiafanakis‘ Between Two Ferns webisode series of interviews through to Bill Murray in Zombieland, where he answers “do you have any regrets?” with “Garfield, maybe”. I like it. So, how do you make a film about the rapture and the end of days a bit comical? Well, how about getting some of the industry’s current comedic frat-pack and throwing them into the film… as themselves…

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, This Is The End tells the tale of how the world will end – all fire and brimstone whilst the good are raptured into heaven and the rest of us are abandoned here as the Earth becomes engulfed in flames and is dominated by demonic entities. So where does our film decide to position itself for this apocalyptic event? James Franco‘s house warming party of course. And who else is there? Let’s throw in Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. Not enough for you? Then how about Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and a whole heap of others. Yes, this is one star-studded film. But don’t for a second think back to the appalling Movie 43 as a reference point here. Thankfully, This Is The End is a far better movie… and is actually rather funny!

This Is The End (2013)

What’s most pleasing about the film is the rapport and on-screen dialogue between the stars. Some are really sending up their characters and acting in a totally atypical way, such as Michael Cera, whilst others embrace how the public perceives them, such as Seth Rogan and James Franco. Rogan has jokes thrown at him about his wooden acting, jarring laugh and inability to play a different character, whilst Franco embraces this artsy, higher-than-thou attitude he’s sometimes painted as having owing to his personal dalliances with trying to acquire every degree under the sun in his spare time. It is simply very, very funny to watch. All of the actors work brilliantly as an ensemble – quite how much is ad-lib and how much is scripted, I’m not entirely sure, but it all works seamlessly.

But what of the plotting? What starts out as a somewhat loose and meandering premise: “oh it’s the end of the world”, suddenly becomes quite compelling and I genuinely found myself enrapt in the world of the rapture. I wanted to know how Franco et al. were going to get out of this situation! Things also got a little crazy when the film started to actually spend money on special effects… you see, This Is The End is quite low tech for the most part; relying heavily on the rapport between the characters and their humorous dialogue. This is great, and thankfully works… but the film turns on its head in its final act. You see, what started out as a humorous little romp about the end of the world turns into something rapidly approaching horror.

This Is The End (2013)

Yes, you read that right… This Is The End actually brings in some effective scares and beautifully animated demons and nasties into the mix. I liked this. Even if it did make me think I was watching the dog-demons from Ghostbusters at one point. I found this change of pace and tone to be quite refreshing and really kept me entertained until the bitter end. The movie doesn’t market itself this way, which is a bit perplexing, but nevertheless – I enjoyed it!

This Is The End (2013)

That brings us to the humour… what of it? As I’ve alluded to until now, the humour works and had me laughing. For the most part. Maybe I’m getting a little too long in the tooth nowadays, but drug jokes / gore jokes / dick jokes don’t make me laugh as much as they used to. And there are a lot of those jokes in here. If you’re not a fan of Superbad, Pineapple Express or any other of the films associated with Seth Rogan and chums, you’re probably not going to be too impressed. Thankfully, for the movie, I am for the most part. But this is probably the film’s biggest weakness, because if you’re not a fan of this humour, you’re going to strongly dislike the movie itself. This is a shame as I genuinely think you should nip out and see this whilst you can.

This Is The End can stand proud: it’s a movie that lives up to the sum of its parts. It doesn’t collapse under its own star power and doesn’t bill itself as the “greatest ensemble cast ever assembled” like that Movie 43 abomination. What you have here is a sharp, funny and mildly horrifying take on the end of the world. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes, that’s for sure, but if you’re at least a fan of some of the stars in this movie then it’ll definitely appeal to you. I can quite confidently state that this may be the best comedy of 2013 so far… but unless the end of the world comes tomorrow, this may yet change… stay tuned!

“It’s the end of the world as we know it”… Well, that’s what REM sang a good while ago. Sure, the rapture looks horrific in This Is The End and I wouldn’t fancy squaring up to any of those demons. But I’m trying to wonder what I’d rather be faced with… a lifetime of fire and brimstone, being tracked down by fierce looking demons, or being forced to watch and re-watch Movie 43 over and over again… Hmmm… just how hot are those coals again??

Phage Factor:

4 Star

The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover Part 3 (2013)

The law of diminishing returns… it’s something I presume we’re all familiar with? Essentially, the more you do something, the less appealing it becomes. It’s a universally true rule. Ok, unless you’re a heroin addict, in which case it’s the law of increasingly fun returns. But then again, who gets the last laugh when you’re crashed out on some random, filth-filled bed with a faint heart beat? The law of diminishing returns. See, it’ll get you eventually. Like Dog the Bounty Hunter. Even films occasionally succumb to this law – the more sequels a franchise spawns, the less appealing they ultimately become. You get an immense amount of deja-vu, the enjoyment falls and the frustrations rise… Does the latest instalment in The Hangover franchise buck this trend and leave you blissed out like a junkie, or does it leave you feeling dirty and used… like a junkie?

The Hangover Part 3 (2013)

I don’t think The Hangover is new news on anyone’s radars is it? The original story followed three guys as they quested to hunt down their one lost friend following a night of debauchery in Las Vegas. Let’s not beat around the bush, the original was fantastic and raised the bar for “this” type of humour. Many copycats would emerge, but few could top it. Then, back in 2011, The Hangover Part II emerged… and it brought more of the same. Well, that’s not entirely true. It almost brought exactly the same film to you. The location changed to Bangkok, but the jokes and pacing were near enough identical to the original. This pleased some (typically the easily-amused populace), but vexed the rest of us, as we knew the cast was capable of so much more.

And so this brings us to The Hangover Part III – the final instalment in The Hangover franchise. Does it follow the same formula as its predecessors? Thankfully not. This, in itself, is a refreshing twist. There is no hangover in sight, the tone shifts somewhat and the laughs near enough evaporate from the entire film… Oh, wait, that’s not an altogether good thing is it?

Car crash?

Car crash?

Briefly, the film once again follows Phil (my boy, Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) on another set of hi-jinx. This time, they’re charged with tracking down the always annoying Chow (Ken Jeong), as it turns out he robbed big time crook Marshall (John Goodman) of a cool $21 million. Marshall has therefore taken Doug hostage (so some things are the same as the first two movies… never mind Justin Bartha), and tasks the other three with finding Chow. Oh, and there’s also a sub-plot involving the fact that Alan needs to grow up and act his age, but that soon proves pointless.

So, the film breaks with tradition and moves away from the “Why are we here? Where is Doug?” routine, but isn’t met with the greatest of success. The tonal shift of the film is quite stark; gone are the goofy send-ups and outrageous gross-out humour, which were the mainstays of the previous instalments. Well, mostly… you still have Galifianakis going full-tilt mental the whole way though, but that’s not an asset, which I’ll come to in a moment. But also gone is the air of mystery. In previous films I’ve genuinely cared about Doug and wanted to find out how the crazy chain of events led to him being where he was! Here? None of that. I found myself caring less and less about where they were going; primarily because they were chasing Ken Jeong. I didn’t want to see him on-screen again. His OTT Chow really destroys the film for me – I didn’t care for him much in The Hangover Part II, and the same is true here.

The Hangover Part 3 (2013)

But the humour is what really levels the film. I think the most apt comparison is with American Pie: The Wedding. Do you remember how it seemed like they’d taken Sean William Scott‘s Stifler and just turned the dial up too high? It seemed like a caricature of a character you used to like. The same is true with Zach Galifianakis‘ Alan. They really ramped his character up too high and it became a pastiche of itself. The jokes fell flat, or were just plain predictable. I am a fan of Galifianakis and think he’s a genuinely funny comedic actor, but I wasn’t feeling it here. There were a couple of lines that made me snigger, but nothing near the level of The Hangover or Due Date. Some malign Due Date, but I still say it had some great moments… But I digress…

Ever wanted to see Bridesmaids meets The Hangover? Here's your chance...

Ever wanted to see Bridesmaids meets The Hangover? Here’s your chance…

What of the others? Well, I of course have a lot of time for Bradley Cooper. I make no secret that The Phage is a huge fan of his. Cooper‘s back in his stereotypical “cool guy” role here – the one that got him his fame. Although he’s not going to win any recognition for this performance, it’s good to see him back playing to his strengths. Having said that, I can’t wait to see him in Serena, which should be up next. Ed Helms however does seem to be phoning it in a little bit here. His performance isn’t a stand out one and I think that’s in part due to poor writing, as opposed to acting. The script is very Jeong / Galifianakis centric, and it suffers for it… I’ve simply seen enough of Ken Jeong‘s Chow to last a life time. There’s also a whole host of cameos in here designed to nod back to the first two instalments, but that leads to the big takeaway message…

Ultimately, The Hangover Part III felt like a holiday album where you look back at the good times and remember everything that went before. Unfortunately, this is a photo album where you looked so much happier in the past. As you turn the pages you see the happiness fade and fade until you look up and into a mirror and realise how old and tired you’ve become over the years. You’re not the same edgy Phage you once were. You changed. So too has The Hangover become old and long in the tooth. I really hoped we’d see a return to form here, or at least a funny send off for the Wolf Pack, but they’re very much leaving with their tails between their legs…

So once again the law of diminishing returns proves infallible, with The Hangover Part III being unable to hit those same blissful highs that it once was able to. Instead we do indeed feel like a junkie that wanted that “one last hit” before they quit… but that hit was too much and was like one long, bad trip. A bit like a hangover you might say, but at least with a genuine hangover you’ll get over it, pick yourself up and get out there again; you’ll erase those memories and replace them with something better. With this film though, it’s the last of the trilogy… so that dirty feeling you have? Well, it’s going to last… no more bliss for you!

Phage Factor:

2 Stars