The Hangover Part III got crushed at the Memorial Day box office by a record-setting opening from Fast & Furious 6: Revenge of the Fast, which, I don’t care how you approach that statistic, says nothing good about our society. It was the kind of slim pickings at the cineplex that inevitably leads to someone saying, “Cinema is dying/all movies suck now”, to which I would respond that Iron Man 3 is good and still in theaters, and there is a wealth of fair-to-excellent films on offer at the arthouse. In fact, because I cannot in good faith recommend either The Hangover Part III or Fast & Furious 6: Fall of the Furious, the “What to Watch” on the home page is made up entirely of arthouse options—at least one of those movies is bound to be playing near you. (I also can’t recommend Now You See Me because it’s either not screening for critics or the screening will be pushed late so as to limit the damage early reviews can do, the schedule is still up in the air, but it’s not a good sign either way.)
Anyway, so I went to see The Hangover Part III. Why? I don’t know. I suppose because I refuse to see any movie with Vin Diesel in it—we all have our line, and that’s mine—and because I’ve seen everything of interest at the arthouses around me, even though I haven’t reviewed any of it.
(Arthouse rundown! Place Beyond the Pines: It will depress the shit out of you and is a bit narratively contorted but the acting is top-notch—seriously, Bradley Cooper, who knew?—and I found it ultimately rewarding. Mud: Easily one of Matthew McConaughey’s best performances to date. It’s a very good movie, also depressing, and Reese Witherspoon is bearable if a little miscast. What Maisie Knew: Also depressing, and I’m always a little extra depressed when Steve Coogan is so unlikeable and not also in a comedy where that’s played for laughs. I find Alexander Skarsgard overrated, but he does well enough. Adorable kid. The Iceman: So-so movie—director Ariel Vromen isn’t quite up to the task—but it features a trio of solid performances from Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, and Chris Evans, who will seriously make you rethink your opinion of his talent. Shadow Dancer: Very tight, very tense, one of those fine Irish films I’ve been banging on about for the last year or so. The East: It will have its fans but except for the always excellent Ellen Page, it’s overrated. Kings of Summer: OUTSTANDING. Do yourself a favor and seek it out.)
Back to The Hangover. About halfway through Part III I realized that The Hangover trilogy is actually very dark, and should not have been a comedy but a drama. Director Todd Phillips has a pretty bleak view of humanity anyway, and seems fascinated with men who cling to their boyhoods ending up as self-destructive idiots, which could be funny in places but tends to make for an overall too mean-spirited tone to sustain a comedy (see also: Due Date). Part III was an improvement on Part II, mainly because it wasn’t a carbon copy of the original, but it’s still pretty well a dud. The We’re the Millers trailer got more and bigger laughs in two minutes than The Hangover got in two hours (again—humanity, what’s happening?). But it’s not without its grace notes.
First, Phillips takes a beating because he makes fairly awful comedies starring massively unlikeable assholes that do better at the box office than many think a Todd Phillips movie deserves to do, but the man is, at least technically, a very proficient director. This is a good looking movie, with a pleasing use of wide shots. Second, Zach Galifianakis puts a lot into Alan’s coming-of-age-at-42 arc—which is totally thrown out the window by the mid-credit tag—and he remains the best part of this franchise. Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are hung out to dry, but Galifianakis actually has something to work with, and he does so admirably well. And third, um…ummm…BCoop’s hair is really nice. He has an amazing head of hair.
But still, it’s a pretty gross movie. Animal cruelty for the sake of humor, everyone involved is better than this, I wonder if this material makes Ken Jeong cry at night, the guys are involved in several murders and yet there are zero repercussions—what the hell is that moral? And it’s not very funny. At least it’s over.