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

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The Lorax (2012)

You know it’s summer when Hollywood unleashes a relentless assault of animated features to enthral the kids and hopefully entertain their accompanying parents during the school holidays, and this year is no exception. Up next in the blitzkrieg is the extravagantly colourful world of The Lorax, based on Dr Seuss’ story of the same name. But does this old yarn-turned-film both bedazzle and amuse, or is it simply a children’s tale set to bewilder and bemuse? Read on dear reader for I shall wage, that the truth is to be found here on Film Phage…

The Lorax (ably voiced by Danny DeVito) for the uninitiated is a story by Dr Seuss essentially telling the tale of the environment vs. corporate greed. I won’t go into the intricacies of the “plot”, but it’s suffice to say that the film tells of how one man (the Once-ler, voiced by Ed Helms from The Hangover) tells a young boy his tale of how his lust for profits rid the world of vegetation and how he didn’t listen to The Lorax: the guardian of the trees. He then entrusts the final seed in existence to this young boy for him to do with as he wishes. If this sounds a bit hokey, then that’s simply because it is. Seuss’ original story is incredibly short and is a bit like a parable; ending on the cliffhanger of “will he or won’t he”. But this is a children’s movie, not the infuriating ending to Inception, so expect no ambiguities… in fact, don’t expect much at all.

What you can expect are modern-day animation staples such as beautiful rendering, celebrity voices and a paper-thin romance. It’s the latter that really undermines the ethos of the film, with Ted (Zac Efron) wanting to find the tree to get in there with his crush Audrey (Taylor Swift). Seuss’ original vision is somewhat bastardised here, as this kid doesn’t really give two Humming-fish about the environment – he’s fulfilling his basic human urges… to get a smooch! C’mon, he’s probably 10, he’s not looking for some hanky panky with a 13 year old girl. Well, that might be the norm in certain districts in a town or city you know, but I’m certain that’s not the case here.

But that’s not all the film does to betray Seuss’ original vision… oh no no… if you live in the US you’ll be fully aware of this advert on your TV, and if you’re not from the US, then watch this bearing in mind that this is a pro-environment, anti-corporation film:

Yes indeedy – the Lorax LOVES a car powered by petrol… made from trees. A confusing message to send out you say? Well that pretty much sums up the entire film: confused. Most of the “extra” material not mentioned in Seuss’ book is simply padding to give context and get to the Lorax part of the tale (and he only sticks around for about 1/2 the entire film). All of these shortcomings just compound how bitter a pill this is to swallow, as it looks beautiful – the animators have rendered Seuss’ world with such loving detail; it’s just a shame that the script has all the charm and charisma of a tin of stale sardines.

The Lorax

Place your bets for a good review… now.

So what about the humour? Surely this film succeeds in that area? Well, I’m afraid not. Whilst I found Ice Age: Continental Drift unexpectedly engaging and genuinely funny in places, I found myself sitting there like the Grinch for this film. And others in the screening reflected this mood. There were muted sniggers from some, and the kids laughed every time a bear or fish made a meaningless squawk, but there was nothing really entertaining about the script. And let’s never speak of those joyless songs. That’s why it’s such a shame to hear that DeVito not only recorded his voiceover in English, but also in Russian, Spanish, German and Italian despite speaking none of these languages: he did it all phonetically. This is a simply mind-blowing approach to voiceover work, which is why it’s so soul destroying to see a film of such lacklustre calibre after all that effort.

I really wanted to like The Lorax, I really did. I always root for an underdog, and after disagreeing with fellow critics’ opinions on Ice Age: Continental Drift, I thought I too might find some green shoots of quality on which to feast, but instead was left with a mouthful of tarmac. If only the Once-ler had obeyed the laws of basic economics and just replenished his supply of trees as he went – he’d have made untold profit and kept the environment going… and also prevented me from needing to sit through 86 minutes of poorly-scripted cinema.

And so dear reader I bring this woeful tale to a close,
as the fable of The Lorax has left The Phage somewhat morose.
Whilst easy on the eye and replete with pure intention,
the story’s dreadfully weak script makes one call one’s sanity into question.
And not even the sublime, multilingual DeVito: the once Oswold Copperpot,
can render this film’s flaws so easily forgot.
For The Lorax is no Horton… Not even a Grinch,
but you can’t help but wonder what next of Seuss’ books Hollywood will pinch.
So lest I end up sounding like old Yoda the Jedi,
I’ll end this little ditty and bid you goodbye.
But I’ll be taking bets on which tale they will next pilfer and pluck…
Or you could be one of those that no longer gives a …

Phage Factor: