Published May 23, 2013After The Hangover 2 was universally dismissed as nothing more than a retreading of the original, by way of Bangkok, the question quickly became how would director Todd Phillips rebound for the conclusion of the trilogy? In sidestepping the formula of our heroes inadvertently ingesting drugs and attempting to piece together a crazy night, The Hangover 3 marginally improves upon the sequel in some ways while never matching the delirious fun of the first high.
If the movie isn't ever consistently funny, it's because it compensates for the lack of its usual hook with such an abundance of plot that the characters barely have time to score laughs. When the proverbial Wolf Pack, consisting of the charming Phil (Bradley Cooper), uptight dentist Stu (Ed Helms), the frequently abandoned Doug (Justin Bartha) and his hapless brother-in-law, Alan (Zach Galifianakis), are kidnapped and tasked with retrieving some stolen gold bars from the nefarious Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) by his former boss, Marshall (John Goodman), you can almost feel the film working up a sweat.
Tracking him to Tijuana, the gang (minus Doug, as always, who is being held by Marshall for collateral) team up with Chow to break into the house that was seized from him where the gold is stashed. When the slippery Chow pulls yet another fast one and they're forced to locate him yet again, their search brings them back to where it all began: Las Vegas.
With a bigger role for Chow this time around, the series wisely allows him to fully blossom into the villain hinted at in the previous films. Aside from Jeong's fine and fearless comedic work, Galifianakis provides many of the other best moments, including a disturbing yet oddly sweet romance with Melissa McCarthy. This leaves Cooper and Helms to essentially play straight men and react to the madness around them, when not delivering exposition in service of the next set piece.
What this instalment illustrates is that the chemistry between the leads was enough to warrant another adventure, but it's come time for the Wolf Pack to go gently now into the good night. It's a tell-tale sign when the franchise is beginning to feel a little like some darker, more demented older cousin of the American Pie series.
Here's to the next step. (Warner)