The Hangover (2009); the film struck a tone with cinemagoers, but spawned a lacklustre sequel. Director Todd Phillips and co are back for The Hangover Part III (2013), and whilst it's a slightly better entry than its predecessor, the third (and final?) instalment still lacks the spark of the original. It's been two years since the events in Bangkok, and friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) are enjoying domesticity.
The same can't be said for Alan (Zach Galifianakis), whose already disturbing behaviour takes a turn for the worse after a family tragedy. Staging an intervention to convince their friend to get the help he needs, the 'Wolfpack' are on a road trip when they get ambushed by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster who has a vendetta against Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong). Doug is promptly taken hostage, and it's up to Phil, Stu, and Alan to find the elusive Chow before their friend is killed.
Part III of the Hangover cycle, the much-maligned Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin have wisely altered the formula inherent in the previous instalments, with a storyline that revolves around Galifianakis' Alan. Unsurprisingly, most of the laughs come from his oddball behaviour, and as always Galifianakis throws himself wholeheartedly into the role. In addition, Part III also does a good job of connecting plot threads from the previous two films, and cameos from Heather Graham's stripper-turned-mom Jade and Mike Epps' Black Doug are welcome inclusions to the narrative. Outside of Galifianakis' man-child, however, chuckles are in depressingly scarce supply.
There are one or two scenes which induce laughter, but the best gags have already been revealed in the trailers, and are few and far between. Furthermore, the decision to promote Jeong's Chow from cameo to central character is a gross misfire, and The Hangover Part III is clear proof that the actor's shtick is wearing off. The fact that his greatly increased screentime comes at the expense of Helms and Cooper makes him doubly frustrating, as the shift in focus means at times it's difficult to see why we fell in love with these characters in the first place.
For franchise newcomers then, this third entry will be especially disappointing. Avid fans who are eager to see how the Hangover saga ends may well end up enjoying Part III, and there are a few in-jokes to that effect. But whilst the series started with howls of laughter, all it can muster on its final bow are short, involuntary giggles. A post-credits scene hints at the possibility of another instalment, but perhaps it would be a better idea to disband the Wolfpack for good.
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