I understand that trilogies will have similar storylines in order to be a cohesive group, but sometimes the inherent formula is so obvious you can barely tell the difference between the movies. Movies need formulas in order to be watchable. If the Hangover really wanted to go off the rails, they could just film an empty bottle of Jack Daniels for two hours and call it a day.
Instead, the Hangover franchise uses the formula of four stock main characters: the handsome leader Phil (Bradley Cooper), the panicky dork Stu (Ed Helms), the wacky fat guy Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug, the normal guy who is never seen (Justin Bartha). Regular Joe/Doug goes M.I.A, and the audience watches the mayhem the other three go through. This happens in all three movies in various locations. As much as the writers play around with the story, making different crazy situations involving monkeys and tigers and small children, it still feels like they are filling out a page of Mad Libs instead of creating a script.
The Hangover Part III feels like it tries to be different, taking a slightly new turn by pointing out the consequences of the wolf pack’s Vegas adventure. The movie concentrates on Alan, whose blatant mental issues are in need of attention. This takes a turn from the usual reaction to their mishaps, which are met with teasing and laughing. I lost a finger! LOL. The opportunity for a new angle is also there because it is the last entry in a successful series. They already have an audience, a big budget and the actors on board – why not go out in style? But the formula a still the crutch for the movie. Doug goes missing, again. Alan and the insane Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) are used to bring out all the strange hilarity, while Phil and Stu play the straight men just trying to make it home.
What I really wished for was a different focus. Screw Alan and Chow, let Phil or Stu have more time to shine. Or even, let Doug get some air time. It would be great to see things from Doug’s perspective. For instance, in the first movie, wouldn’t it be great if we saw Doug hallucinating on the hotel roof while the others went looking for him? It seems like such a waste to use Doug as this stock friend who has the personality and value of a cardboard cut-out.
Don’t take this review too harshly, because The Hangover Part III was really funny. The problem is that it’s just as funny as the two preceding films, in a way that shows it’s going nowhere. It’s the same hangover all over again, and if they think of doing a fourth installment, they better come up with a different cure.