For those keeping score, the Hangover franchise has now seen three movies made with only one decent idea among them.
It started four years ago with The Hangover, a raunchy male-bonding comedy about a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly wrong, that became a surprise box-office smash. As with most box-office success stories, that led to a follow-up, The Hangover Part II, which basically told the same story while transferring the setting.
Perhaps trying to atone for those creative missteps, the filmmakers have taken a different approach with The Hangover Part III, ditching the original formula in favor of placing their characters in a derivative action-adventure plot.
All of the principal cast members return, along with director Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the script. Maybe they’re collectively trying to show more maturity by making the latest installment feel more warm and fuzzy as opposed to edgy and shocking.
Yet it’s doubtful that fans will agree, and while the fan base for this supposed conclusion to the trilogy is already built-in, many moviegoers might feel betrayed by a concept that isn’t nearly as funny as its predecessors in part because it doesn’t try to be as funny.
The story begins with the lonely and impressionable Alan (Zach Galifianakis) causing the deaths of a pet giraffe and his own father (Jeffrey Tambor) in separate incidents, causing the rest of his family to stage an intervention over his mental health.
That sets up a road trip with his Wolf Pack buddies — Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) — to a treatment facility. But a detour leads them instead to their old nemesis Chow (Ken Jeong), who has stolen some gold bars from a crime boss (John Goodman). And eventually, of course, they wind up back in Vegas.
The actors benefit from a rapport that has developed over the course of the series, making them familiar faces to moviegoers and each other. The freewheeling Galifianakis provides most of the comic highlights, but Jeong gets way too much screen time as the grating Chow.
A handful of flashbacks remind moviegoers of past adventures, when the franchise was still about low-brow sex jokes and reckless bacchanalia. They also illustrate the main problem with The Hangover Part III. While the film tries to make these guys more sympathetic, the story only further enhances their bumbling idiocy.
Rated R, 101 minutes.