There comes a point in any doomed, long-term relationship when the magic is just gone. You find yourself going through the motions and desperately trying to remember why exactly it was that you fell in love in the first place.
“The Hangover” franchise is exactly like one of those failed trysts and “The Hangover Part III” marks that point right before you put all of their CDs and toothbrush in a box, change your locks and consider getting a restraining order.
It all started out so promising. “The Hangover” was an outright blast; you laughed like you never laughed before and couldn’t wait until you could get together again.
When “The Hangover Part II” came around you started to worry that maybe you were getting stuck in a rut. Sure the location was different as Las Vegas was traded up for Bangkok and you still had fun, but the bloom was off the rose even if you were willing to forgive the huge improbability of the exact same thing happening a second time.
I suppose you have to give “The Hangover Part III” credit for at least trying to be a little different, but the reality is that it hardly had any chance at all of being any good.
The secret problem here is that none of the main characters are really all that likable. This is no fault of the tremendous actors playing them. Bradley Cooper as the cocky jerk Phil, Ed Helms as the tightly-wound Stu, and Zach Galifianakis as the unhinged odd-ball Alan all continue to do great jobs with what they are given.
But these aren’t guys you really want to root for. What made “The Hangover” a truly great comedy was watching these three boobs be relentlessly punished for a night of drunken lunacy they can’t even remember; all while knowingly shaking your head realizing you’ve gotten off light for your own nights of being a drunk idiot.
The other problem has been the ascension of bizzaro crime lord Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) to a major character over the course of these films. Chow was great in small doses, working best as a nude, tire-iron-wielding surprise in the first movie.
But now we’re forced to spend an entire movie with him as our heroes are tasked with tracking down Chow at the behest of a rival criminal named Marshall (John Goodman, who always brings his A-game).
To prod the Wolf Pack into action Marshall keeps their ever-absent friend Doug (Justin Bartha) hostage as collateral. I’ve always felt kind of sorry for Bartha as he’s always reminded me of the kid who breaks his leg right before summer camp and can only sit and watch while everybody else has all the fun.
This movie is also a lot darker; boasting an actual body count, some quiet introspective moments (which have the cumulative effect of tying a 1,000-pound anchor to a speedboat), and hardly any big laughs.
The only thing new in “The Hangover Part III” that’s worth mentioning is the appearance of the great Melissa McCarthy as the proprietor of a pawn shop who is essentially a female Alan. I wish she and Jeong could have swapped their respective amounts of screen time.
In fact, a tiny part of me wished they hadn’t even tried to break the mold at all and that the post-credits capper had actually been the beginning of the movie.
It might not have been very original, but it at least would have been some reminder of why we wasted some of the best years of our lives on this deadbeat. Like with any breakup it’s best to just move on and try to remember the good times.
And if late some night “The Hangover Part IV” gives you a call, you should probably consider getting your number changed.
“The Hangover III” is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence, and drug content, and brief graphic nudity.