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 Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

If I look back on my childhood, there’s probably one film star that had the greatest impact on me. That actor would be Jim Carrey. 1994 was something of a revelation for the pre-teen Phage. We had Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber and The Mask all hit our cinemas. You’re doubting the impact these films had on me as an impressionable youth aren’t you? Well, suffice it to say that I actually took to wearing Hawaiian shirts unbuttoned, with a vest underneath. I went out in public like that! I even did the little neck twitches that Carrey would do in Ace Ventura too. I’m glad the feeling of “shame” hadn’t kicked in at such a tender age. Thankfully, I think very few photos exist of that period of my life. Now, almost 20 years later, Jim Carrey is still doing his thing on our screens. Sure, he’s had some duds, but he’s also starred in some modern day classics. How does The Incredible Burt Wonderstone fare though?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is about magic. The large scale magic shows that cascade through Vegas like some flashy river. The eponymous character, Burt (Steve Carell) has been in the magic game since he was a little kid. Shunned by his classmates, he turns to magic courtesy of a magic kit his mother left him. This triggers a friendship with another school loner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and together they go on to become “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton” in their adult years. But things aren’t peachy behind the scenes. Aside from their worn friendship, there are egotistical issues and the fact that their style of bombastic magic is no longer “in vogue”. People don’t want David Copperfield any more. They want the Criss Angels, David Blaines and Dynamos of the magic world. Street performers with a dangerous edge. Cue Jim Carrey as Steve Gray (who is Criss Angel in everything but name) with his show Brain Rapist (Angel‘s show is Mind Freak)… a guy who is definitely stealing their thunder.

Criss Angel and Steve Gray... Brain Rapists and Mind Freaks.

Criss Angel and Steve Gray… Brain Rapists and Mind Freaks.

I think The Incredible Burt Wonderstone makes a lot more sense and is vastly more enjoyable if you know a little about magic acts. Especially how magic has changed since the 1980’s and 1990’s. Big illusions are out, “mind freaking” up close is in. If you bear this in mind, and know some of Criss Angel‘s work, you’ll see what this film is trying to do… or I think you might. The film is quite confused in its tone. It doesn’t know whether to send up the world of magic as a comedy, or play out like a traditional buddy film and actually respect the art of magic. It would have worked far better as one or the other, and not the mish-mash that actually is revealed from behind the red curtain.

The problems with the film stem mainly from the scripting here. We all know that Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey are extremely bankable actors. The first and last in that list have proven chemistry from films such as Bruce Almighty, and Steve Buscemi is just a seminal actor. But the movie falls flat quite often. The laughs are few and far between, which is pretty unacceptable for a comedy. Most of them come from the ridiculousness of Steve Gray’s bizarre stunts, and even those types of laughs don’t really appeal all too well to an international (read: British) audience. I was genuinely excited by the prospect of the film when I saw Carell and Carrey were reuniting again, which may ┬áhave fed this sense of being underwhelmed that I had throughout the film.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

However, nothing can be taken away from Jim Carrey‘s performance here. He’s back on the “full tilt madness” setting that characterised his earlier movies: rubber faces, crazy eyes and being generally… Jim Carrey like. Alrighty then! Although I felt that his character’s “appeal” grew increasingly thin over the length of the film, his presence on-screen made every one of his scenes the most memorable parts. As for Carell and Buscemi? Well… they’re just there. Their story is plainly obvious from the start and you can predict the plot points from the outset. Having said that, I thought that the ending of the movie was genuinely heart warming and quite charming. It actually made me question how harshly I’d been viewing the movie since the titles appeared. I wondered whether I should award The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with a higher score than I’d planned… but you can’t pull off that type of illusion. Not on The Phage. My verdict is resolute and absolute.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone promised much more than it could provide. Sure, Jim Carrey is on sterling form, which makes his appearance in Kick-Ass 2 all the more anticipated, but the script and subsequent parts played by Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi were underwhelming and quite tiresome. But the biggest problem? The laughs just weren’t there. This is a film that will make magic fans titter, but if you have no idea who Criss Angel is, then this film will fall flat. And also, can I point out that Jim Carrey‘s character is NOT meant to be an aping of David Blaine. His name is Steve Gray… and he presents a show called Brain Rapist. He’s topless a lot, has long hair and is covered in tattoos. Criss Angel presents a show called Mind Freak, is topless a lot, has long hair and is covered in tattoos. Shazam.

And although I don’t feel the urge to dress up as Jim Carrey / Steve Gray / Criss Angel, this film reminds me just why I idolised Jim Carrey so much years ago. He’s still a funny guy and has an indisputably unique comedic talent. Sure, it’s waned at times, but I predict that 2013-14 will be his resurgence. We’ve got Kick-Ass 2 and Dumb & Dumber to to look forward to (too many to’s). And I can’t wait!

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars