|(Left to Right) Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Phil (Bradley Cooper)|
Though I've always been an apologist for the franchise, having enjoyed and LOL'ed at the first film and even excused its duplicate (but not as cool) second film, the third film is like the infantile second cousin of the three. Obviously related, but you can tell all the really great jokes were used in the first two films and are now stale.
But, ironically, the new movie, like any good finale, starts out promising maturity and growth in its characters and the essential idea. Well, kinda. Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the inexplicably delinquent member of the three-man bromance better known as the Wolfpack, is cruising the freeway tagging a giant giraffe in a flimsy cart attached to is car. Being the idiot that he is, he ignores the height requirement and speeds right under a low bridge, decapitating his wildlife passenger.
And continuing with the death toll just a few minutes into the movie, Alan's dad, Sid (Jeffrey Tambor) meets his Maker after he reams out Alan for his freeway fiasco. He stomps right into the kitchen and doubles over with a heart attack. Of course, Alan doesn't even notice this because, just like any hard-headed juvenile, even the 42-year-old kind, he's pouting on the couch with his headphones turned up.
So this latest stunt prompts a serious and somewhat somber intervention hosted by Doug (Justin Bartha) with Alan's "friends" (which apparently include an underage swimming buddy?), family and, reluctantly, The Wolfpack (consisting of Stu (Ed Helms), the geeky,uptight dentist, and Phil (Bradley Cooper), the charming douchebag of the crew). Apparently, after Alan drugged the guys in the first film and got them involved in more shenanigans in the second, his actions have now become a problem for the group. This is about two films too late, but, of course, the first step is admitting that.
|Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong)|
Unbeknownst to all, Alan has been incommunicado with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the flippant and flamboyant villain in all three movies and who I'd like to call an honorary member of The Wolfpack (because, really, they are no better than him). Chow pisses off the wrong group of bad guys this time, and he reels The Wolfpack in to the madness. Once again, the fellas find themselves in impossibly wild situations, with the random level turned up way high.
While of course it's ridiculous, and you often want to jump through the screen and slap one of the guys in the face (usually Alan), this franchise does have a likability factor. It is quite funny at times, though at this third juncture you're expecting the joke, so it doesn't really have the same effect.
At its core, the series isn't just about drunken debacles, but the unlikely brotherhood that forms as a result. Unfortunately, the third film just isn't smart enough to tackle the bromance element as cleanly as the first did, though it does try to insert in it as an aside (and briefly in the rushed ending). That said, you don't connect with the film as as much because it doesn't have a clear objective. It has two tones, and neither is executed very well. In other words, it's all jokes and hijinx (which work at times), but has lost its footing along the way. And not even the usually reliable John Goodman and Melisssa McCarthy, who both make appearances in the movie, can't offer any additional laughs.
Just when you think you've reached the end of this saga, there's an after credits scene that ups the WTF ante. Depending on your sense of humor, you'll either laugh, roll your eyes, or your jaw will drop. I did all three, but then a shiver of fear ran through my spine at the mere thought of another installment. That just can't be.