Who’s ready to let the dogs out again? Because the Wolf Pack is back in “The Hangover Part III.” The film, out May 23, reunites the iconic group of everyone’s favorite man-child Alan Garner, pretty boy school teacher Phil Wenneck, pathetic dentist Stu Price, and Doug Billings (Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha, respectively) for one last hurrah of debauchery and over-the-top hijinks. Working from a script he co-wrote with Craig Mazin, director Todd Phillips (“Road Trip,” “Old School”) establishes himself as the master of the “bro movie” with this final hilarious and satisfying conclusion to the definitive trilogy of bad decisions.
However, this movie smartly foregoes the main amnesia formula that drove its predecessors, instead opting to bring the story full circle, appropriately wiping 2011’s raunchier and poorly received “The Hangover Part II” from our memories (although it is humorously referenced here and there). The $100 million budgeted threequel is a piece of nostalgia that harkens back to the classic 2009 original (which only cost $35 million to make) and is filled to the brim with throwbacks that show how much of a ripple effect our protagonists caused in Las Vegas all those years ago. Though this hangoverless “Hangover” is not as good as the first, it benefits from its ridiculous situations, leaving nothing unscathed in the guys’ path; no one is safe and nothing is off limits. In the words of Batman, it’s the sendoff that this series deserves.
The movie begins with a Bangkok prison riot, an escape reminiscent of “Shawshank Redemption” by Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong as the crazed, cocaine-snorting international criminal), and a decapitated giraffe head that causes an entire freeway to be shut down (and that’s just the first few minutes!). The hilarity only escalates as Alan’s father (Jeffrey Tambor, who will reprise his role as George Bluth in Netflix’s reboot of “Arrested Development,” to be released May 26) dies, and a plan is set in motion to put Alan, who’s been off his medications, in a mental rehabilitation center with the promise that he will come back a changed man.
Galifianakis is still as funny as ever as the overweight, bearded buffoon who comes off as an exaggerated cross between Curly from The Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp persona. He’s a dangerous combination of spoiled, stupid and oblivious, creating humor out of the awkward situations that he creates, not to mention an obsession with Phil bordering on sexual attraction. He shines during a funeral eulogy (referring to his father as a life partner), an intervention on his behalf, a revealing flashback where he shockingly drops a racial slur that would make Quentin Tarantino proud, and in a pawnshop run by a female version of Alan played by Melissa McCarthy.
On the way to the facility, the group is ambushed in a field of windmills and power lines (a location reminiscent of David Fincher’s “Seven”) by Marshall, a criminal played by an unflinching John Goodman, who carries on the “Hangover” tradition of famous personalities in supporting roles (e.g., Mike Tyson, Paul Giamatti, Nick Cassavetes). He orders the trio to find Chow, who stole $21 million in gold bars from him, taking Doug as collateral (big surprise there). As always, these poor schlubs enter into a veritable Twilight Zone of crime, sex and drugs.
In lieu of post-drunken antics, the gang jumps from gag to gag (each one more improbable and hilarious than the last) in search of Chow, who is crazier and more sadistic than ever. Their road trip takes them from California to Tijuana, Mexico, and all the way back to Vegas, specifically Caesar’s Palace, where all the madness first began (and no, it’s still not the real one). There hasn’t been this much action in Sin City since Danny Ocean and his team came to town. Still, the Rat Pack’s got nothing on the Wolf Pack.
Surprises wait around every corner, and it’s fun to see these guys run around like chickens with their heads cut off, breaking into Mexican villas and scaling the roofs of hotels with ropes made of bed sheets. Moreover, it is a welcome sight to see them run into blasts from the past. The movie brings back such characters as ‘Black Doug’ (Mike Epps), Jade the prostitute (Heather Graham), and baby Carlos, who’s all grown up now. Alan, who once cared for the boy, shares a tender moment with him that will leave you emotional and laughing. Chow is placed back in the trunk of a car, the place where we were first introduced to him in 2009. Even Phillips makes a tiny cameo, something he does from time to time in his films. While I was disappointed that Mike Tyson didn’t reprise his role, Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” plays during the ending credits.
With all the scenic locations, helicopter shots and road tripping in this installment, Phillips evokes the feeling of summer while placing the movie in the massive scope of a macrocosm that complements the microcosm setting of the first movie. In a summer full of superheroes and giant robots, it’s nice to see a bunch of ordinary guys who break the border of impossible and keep trudging forward when placed in extraordinary circumstances. Like in the last two movies, Helms is a neurotic mess, which contrasts Cooper’s cool-guy approach and Galifianakis’ immaturity. It’s really the personality differences between these guys that contribute to their great chemistry, the greatest asset of this movie and the trilogy as a whole.
In the end, all loose ends are tied up, and Alan learns an important lesson, growing up in the process and achieving a major life goal that you may never have thought possible. As the group walks down the hall in slow motion for the last time to Kanye West’s “Dark Fantasy,” we sadly bid goodbye to the three best friends that anybody could have who make our nights of depravity look like child’s play. Make sure to stick around for a hilarious, raunchy and nostalgic post-credits scene that confirms that Stu makes the funniest choices when highly intoxicated. Other critics may say that some things in this sequel are too forced or unnecessary, but I say, “Who the hell cares?”
“The Hangover Part III” is not here to win any Oscars or make some kind of social commentary. Like a bachelor party, it’s here to show us a good time and make some questionable decisions along the way.