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

The Campaign (2012)

Sometimes films land at a time that’s just so apt, so perfect that it’s a true stroke of luck. Take Contagion for example – the film about the deadly strain of influenza bat-derived virus. You may be thinking that it was commissioned because of the H1N1 outbreak, but you’d be wrong. It was just a happy co-incidence, as the film was actually sparked by SARS and the emerging H5N1 bird flu virus. You see? Right time – right place! Other films are less fortuitous and focus on hitting cinemas to coincide with something. And The Campaign is clearly one of those films.

Now, The Campaign hit the US some months ago, so to my Atlantic cousins, I apologise – as this is old news for you. You could argue that launching the film way back in the summer was a mistake considering your elections fall in November. I’d have thought launching now would have been more appropriate, but I guess Hollywood knows best. That or your politics system knows best… Both have so many similarities…

Ok, the film tells the tale that you pretty much expect it to: two men are campaigning for a Congressional seat on behalf of North Carolina. On one hand you have Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) – a career politician who’s a womaniser, liar and every other cliché you could throw at a politician. But he’s in charge. Then you have his opposition: Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) who is quite a simple guy and embodies every other cliché you could throw at Zach Galifianakis‘ on-screen roles to date. All of this electoral hoopla is controlled by “the man” and the “big corporations” embodied here by Dan Akyroyd and John Lithgow – the Motch brothers. Has this got you excited yet? What if I say there are a hell of a lot of big names that make an appearance in here? Excited? Well… manage that excitement.

The film is very middle-of-the-road. When it hit US cinemas some hailed it a comic masterpiece, whilst others snorted with derision. I do neither, but I’d certainly say it’s more worthy of a snort than hailing it as a masterpiece. Let’s get one thing straight though: Will Ferrell has made far worse films in recent years. I know that’s not saying much, but it’s true. I’ve never really understood his appeal if I’m honest. I think Anchorman is vastly overrated and he, like Galifianakis (who I’m coming to), decides to play a very similar role time after time. This is no different.

So whilst I’ve brought him up, let’s move to the second lead: Zach Galifianakis. You see, I actually do like this guy and enjoy The Hangover and Due Date – arguably his two biggest films to date. I also think his stand-up is bizarre but entertaining and his more “serious” role in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story was solidly acted and hinted at a deeper, more complex actor than you’d be led to believe. This isn’t one of those performances. Whilst I do like his schtick, Galifianakis veers very heavily towards his character from Due Date. It’s less acting and more a parody of an effeminate man from the south. It’s a bit like a sketch show if I’m honest. This might fly on Saturday Night Live, but not so much on the big screen; especially when I know the guy is capable of more than this.

I would go into depth on the plot, but it’s a Will Ferrell movie… you’re not going to walk out of this movie debating the intricacies of the story, as you may have done with Looper. In fact, I’d be surprised if you walked out and uttered much more than “that was alright”. That’s essentially all that can be drawn from the film. However, one thing that’s worth mentioning is the ending. Just what is that? It’s almost as if they’d finished filming and editing and thought “you know what, why don’t we bolt on 30 seconds more footage?”. And this 30 seconds of footage is so disconnected and horribly bolted on that it’s just… weird. A very poor choice from whoever commissioned that ending. Not that it improves or destroys what had gone before, it’s just very peculiar.

And after all that, let’s discuss what matters with a comedy: the humour. Some films can be forgiven for a dull plot by having some great laughs. This has some laughs, for sure, but with the exception of some “punchy” jokes, none have truly stuck with me since I saw the credits roll. Most of the laughs were of the “ooo, can they do that?” variety, as opposed to a well constructed joke. And by saying that, don’t think I’m a very conservative guy. I’m British – we’re used to pushing the boundaries so far over the precipice of acceptability that we’re impaled on the rocks below. I don’t know where this films on that particular cliff, but it’s definitely straddling the boundary between “good” and “ok” film…

When all’s said and done, if you’re a Will Ferrell fan, you’ll probably already have seen this film because you’re a fan of what he does. It’s amazing how much pull that guy still has, despite the fact he’s not put out a hit in quite some time. I’m sure Anchorman 2 will do big business because of this fact alone. Me? Sure, I’ll see it, but I won’t be first in line.

So on whether The Campaign should get your vote or not, I’d say that the verdict’s currently hung. But, since Film Phage isn’t like the US political system (ie., we can’t be bought… or maybe we could if we were approached), then I’d have to stick to my guns and state that this film truly is middle of the road. There will be no recounts, there will be no re-elections and there will be no sale of the votes amassed by Florida.

Phage Factor: