As a general rule, it’s all fine and good for a comedian to be funny-looking. Zach Galifianakis is not only funny-looking, he’s hilarious-looking: He could be the lonely love child of Chewbacca and Rosie O’Donnell. But Zach G’s big problem is that, after four years in the spotlight as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedy stars, he still has nothing else going for him but the way he looks.
Here are five reasons it’s time to stick a fork in this meatball of an actor.
1) He Keeps Doing the Same Shtick.
Galifianakis is forever playing the same strange, foolhardy egomaniac whether in the three Hangover movies, Due Date,or The Campaign. In the completely unnecessary sequel The Hangover Part III he takes over starring duties as Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms step aside. But a little of Zach goes a long way.
Among his big moments are the one where the dudes are looking at a doll house modeled after the real house they’re about to break into to steal $20 million worth of gold and Galifianakis says, “We’re not gonna break into this house, right? This house is too small.” No one is that stupid, sorry.
2) He Uses His Look as a Crutch.
Appearing again and again as the same roly-poly, bushy-faced little man-troll has established Galifianakis as a brand, but being fat and furry is not the same thing as being funny. He keeps layering on the silly costumes — retro t-shirts, the famous man-purse in the first Hangover, the odd safari suit of Hangover II, and the sleeveless bush jacket he wears this time around — because his comedic talents are so feeble.
He’s essentially a prop comic, except he wears his props, and tired prop comedy, like the third Hangover film, is something that happens in Vegas and ought to stay in Vegas. Someone needs to tell Galifianakis that comedy movie stars have to give the audience a little bit more than clown wear.
3) The Mock-Gay Thing Is So Over.
Yet another way Galifianakis relies on stale comedy techniques from the Fifties is by suddenly lapsing into gay mannerisms, as though (for instance) lovingly stroking Bradley Cooper’s cheek or saying, “That’s a cute top” makes any sense for a straight man (who also flirts heavily with the McCarthy character). True, Jerry Lewis once got away with this sort of gesture, and maybe it was funny then, but comedy evolves and sharpens. Acting slightly gay doesn’t cut it anymore.
4) He Can’t Act.
Galifianakis has popped up here and there in serious films like Up in the Air, but never has any impact. He has no tools in his box except the mock-outraged glare he uses again and again in the three Hangover movies. It’s his way of signalling, “I’m about to say something really obnoxious, get ready to laff!”
A real comedian can get laughs with a pause or an inflection or a slight change of expression or a vocal modulation. Galifianakis plays strictly to the cheap seats and can’t master any of these subtleties. In Hangover III, during a scene featuring a cameo by the talented Melissa McCarthy as a trashy pawn shop owner, Galifianakis is reduced to crashing into a row of musical instruments. When falling all over the scenery is your only option, you’re out of comedy ammo.
5) He’s Not Really Anarchic and Unpredictable, Just Kind of Creepy.
In keeping with the general decline of the series — the third episode doesn’t have anything to compare with the surprises that made the first film such fun, such as the tiger, Mike Tyson, or the naked guy in the trunk — H3 is more off-putting than it is wild.
A scene in which the Galifianakis character, Alan, reunites with the Heather Graham character’s baby (now a toddler) from the first movie will have you wondering what the number is for the nearest child protective services hotline. The two of them have a long, pointless scene together in which they share a small play tent alone, and the sense of unease is palpable. Unlike fellow screen fatties such as John Candy or Jack Black, each of whom enjoyed some of his finest screen moments when interacting with little ones, Galifianakis doesn’t so much come across as an overgrown kid as a sweaty weirdo who keeps finding unconvincing excuses to hang around the playground. To be a comedy star, it’s probably better to be the kind of person who attracts rather than repels people.