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Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:03 pm

Hangover III brings the wolf pack home

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Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in The Hangover Part III.

As years go by and I sit through more and more insufferable, unimaginative comedies, Todd Phillips’ The Hangover continues to stand the test of time. It was apparent when it was first released in 2009 that the director had caught lightning in a bottle, providing one surprise after another in delivering a film that defied the notion that comedies tend to run out of steam. It actually became funnier as it went along. It became apparent just how special this movie was when its sequel was released, a dismal retread that succeeded in making viewers wonder why they liked the original in the first place.

Thankfully the finale of the trilogy will remind audiences why they embraced The Hangover. Part III rekindles some of the inspired lunacy that made it such a success. That it doesn’t quite meet the heights of the initial entry can be forgiven. The ship has sailed where any sense of surprise is concerned. However, what’s most refreshing is that Phillips and fellow screenwriter Craig Mazin are able to integrate certain plot points from the first film and actually achieve a sense of poignancy and closure along the way.

Things get off to a promising start. We see everyone’s favorite man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) cause havoc on the Los Angeles freeway. Things go horribly awry when he attempts to transport his new pet giraffe under a bridge with a low clearance level at high speeds. As the poor animal’s head goes careening into the windshield of an oncoming auto, Phillips serves notice that all bets are off here. He sets out to erase the memory of the uninspired Part II and comes up with a good premise to do so. The other members of the wolf pack – Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) – are talked into taking Alan to a rehab facility in Arizona. It’s an uneventful trip until they’re run off the road and taken hostage before being delivered to Marshall (John Goodman), a crime lord who thinks they can track down Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who stole over $20 million in gold bars from him years before. Seems Alan has kept in touch with the madman, so he, Phil and Stu are given three days to find him while Doug is held as collateral.

There’s a sense of forward momentum here that the second part lacked. This film breezes from one insane moment to the next with the story briskly moving from Arizona to Tijuana and finally back to Las Vegas. However, the masterstroke Phillips and Mazin employ is utilizing Chow, a rich source of comedic possibilities as realized by Jeong. The actor’s manic approach, as well as the degree of comic menace he brings to the role, allows him to steal the film. The screenplay gives him more than a few show-stopping moments, each of them more manic than the last. That the three principals are essentially the straight men to Jeong’s shtick is a refreshing change and at just over 90 minutes, Phillips wisely doesn’t let this approach overstay its welcome.

Perhaps the oddest and most welcome twist is when Alan finds love and is allowed to settle down at the end. I’m loath to reveal just who his mate is but suffice it to say, the actress cast in the role is a perfect match for Galifianakis’ brand of one-step-behind-everyone lunatic behavior. Phillips and company are intimating that Alan and his cohorts have earned the right to live normal lives, having burned away the last traces of their childhood via three trials by fire. They’re now ready for a life of responsibility they never could have handled or appreciated before. We’ve shared in this lunatic journey and that it ends on a high note is our prize for having endured it with them.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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