‘Hangover III’ — it’s the end of the line for overgrown frat boy comedy movies

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

They say that all good things must end.

Sometimes that applies to bad things, too.

Not that the “Hangover” series is all that bad.

To their credit, these overgrown frat boy comedies deliver pretty much precisely what their intended audiences crave: a raunchy Three Stooges movie.

Think about it. Bradley Cooper is sort of the leader, like Moe. Ed Helms is the harried middleman, like Larry. And Zach Galifianakis indulges in a cherubic mayhem that’s not unlike Curly Joe (or just Joe, depending on your choice of Stooges).

The fourth guy, Justin Bartha, is pretty much superfluous. Like Zeppo Marx, to mix my comedy-team metaphors.

“The Hangover Part III” is the end of the “Hangover Trilogy” — generally Hollywood-speak for we-can’t-milk-this-cash-cow-any-longer. Or perhaps given that Cooper has been named Sexiest Man Alive and snagged an Oscar nomination since the first movie, he may have priced himself out of range. Let’s hope so.

At least “Part III” doesn’t repeat the same plot as the second movie did the first. Really. If you’ve never seen these movies, that’s what they did, only they moved the action from Vegas to Thailand.

But this plot isn’t much of an improvement. The “boys” become involved in a drug lord’s (John Goodman) hunt to recover a stash of gold that’s been stolen from him by another series regular, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong).

So first they go to Tijuana, but ultimately everyone ends up back in Vegas (for old times sake?) There’s some random animal violence (if you’ve seen the previews, you already know about the hilariously beheaded giraffe) and broad physical humor, a bit of it tinged with an unfashionable uneasiness about homosexuality.

That’s not to say the movie is in any way homophobic; it’s too mild for that. In fact, what mostly sets “Part III” apart from its predecessors is that the raunch factor has been ratcheted down. Considerably.

When Heather Graham appears, she’s married and pregnant — with a toddler nearby with whom Galifianakis bonds. And here’s where the Wolfpack, as they are apparently called, veer off from the Stooges.

The Stooges were never sentimental. “Hangover” get sentimental about Galifianakis’s passage from child-man to man-child to, finally, just plain man. Incredibly odd as this sounds, filmmaker Todd Phillips apparently has an emotional investment in these characters. Or at least he thinks the audience does.

And maybe they do. I’m not really the demographic and, if anything, the thought of anyone feeling anything remotely emotional about these guys brought up a chilling thought: how many more “Animal House” movies would there have been if John Belushi hadn’t O.D’d?

Cooper’s a cute boy and Galifianakis does have a pleasingly uncensored air about him and Helms is a hometown boy (Westminster, class of….something). So they’re not difficult to spend time with. Still, you wonder why they — having all established themselves as personas larger than this movie series, unlike, say, the “American Pie” cast — are wasting their time on this pimply hogwash.

At least I know why I was wasting mine…

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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