If every generation gets the comedy team they deserve, here’s good news for all of us: The guys from the “Hangover” films have hilariously, crazily evolved.
Not that Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms) are thinking deep thoughts. But the pleasant surprise of “The Hangover Part III” is a belated bout of adulthood has only made the extended-adolescent characters funnier. The result is a more traditional but more hysterical crowd-pleaser.
Alan, in fact, is acting like a troubled teen when Phil and Stu catch up to him. The 42-year-old just buried his dad (Jeffrey Tambor), beheaded a giraffe (don’t ask) and is acting lost (when not acting out). So Alan’s family intervenes and books him at a Southwestern mental health facility, with Phil, Stu and Alan’s brother-in-law Doug (Justin Bartha) driving him there.
But there’s a hitch. Barely out of L.A., the guys are shanghaied by a mob boss (John Goodman) owed $21 million in gold by Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), the nutsy albatross around the guys’ necks. The mobster takes Doug hostage until the gold is retrieved.
Turns out the gold is hidden in Vegas, a place the still-shellshocked Stu vowed never to return to, after the lost bachelor party of four years ago. But for Alan it’s a step forward, especially after a brief encounter with a tattooed antique store owner (Melissa McCarthy).
Abandoning the “What happened last night?” structure — which marred the second entry — frees “Part III” to relax into its own goofy groove. Director Todd Phillips’ wild ride through the mind of the American guy (strippers, monkeys, road trips, troublemaking) now lopes easily from epic set-pieces to male rite-of-passage shenanigans.
Even Jeong is palatable as Chow, the film’s irrepressible id. On the lam from a Bangkok prison, the out-there oddball is less punch line and more endearing.
Yet it’s the connection between the main trio that’s most winning, mainly because the actors avoid cartoonishness. Cooper’s droll way with throwaway lines (well deployed in his Oscar-nominated turn in “Silver Linings Playbook”) has only improved. The wry Helms dials down the hysteria as Stu approaches his own self-revelation.
Galifianakis, though, is the key here. Able to smash a scene to smithereens with the simplest of lines, the hirsute comic is as unpredictable as ever, yet takes director Todd Phillips’ bait to up the stakes. It’s a treat to see the loony man-child Alan blooming in love, friendship and even faux-fatherhood after a reunion with baby Carlos from the first film.
Alan, happily, will be okay. Just keep him away from the giraffes.