Vegas, baby. Back to where it all started. To the city where Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) first met notorious gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Joeng). Kidnapped by Black Doug (Mike Epps) and crime lord, er, Marshall (John Goodman), the Wolfpack learns that their Vegas trip four years prior led to Chow stealing $21 million in gold bars from Marshall. Now Chow is missing, having escaped the high security Bangkok prison where he was being held, and Marshall needs the Wolfpack to lure the F-bombing madman out of hiding. As collateral, the gangsters take perpetually MIA Doug (Justin Bartha), leaving Phil and company with little choice but to track down their old frenemy. They make short work of the search -- it seems Alan and Leslie have been keeping in touch -- but Chow quickly ferrets out their true intentions and turns the tables. The Wolfpack suddenly finds itself in a desperate scramble to save Doug, outwit Chow and recover a stack of gold for Marshall.
After the implausibly hard-R comedy that was The Hangover and, more so, The Hangover Part II, The Hangover Part III is uncharacteristically tame and unexpectedly uneventful. A lot seems to be happening at any given moment, and yet very, very little actually happens. It doesn't even feel like a Hangover sequel. There's some messy business with a giraffe that was spoiled in the film's trailers, one of the cleanest Melissa McCarthy cameos you're likely to see on the big screen, a run-in with a flock of cockfighting roosters, and plenty of Alan being Alan and Chow being Chow. But nothing startling or boundary busting in the least. Meanwhile, the main storyline involves a simple heist-atop-heist plot that's smaller in scope and scale than most scenes in the first film. For a grandiose, larger than life finale to a grandiose, larger than life series, Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin deliver an uninspired romp that's infatuated with revisiting events and characters from the first two movies rather than dishing out something fiendishly clever and new. It isn't as awful as The Hangover Part II, but it's almost as bad, if that makes a lick of sense. It isn't derivative either; it couldn't be more different from its predecessors. So different, in fact, that it barely registers as a full-blown sequel. Same characters, same terrible luck, same juvenille charm, albeit without the hyper-real insanity and vicious, go-for-the-jugular comedy that earned the series its billion dollars in the first place. After the drubbing Part II took, Phillips understandably high-tailed it in the opposite direction. It's still the wrong direction, though.
That's not to suggest The Hangover Part III is devoid of laughs. It isn't. I cracked a smile more than once, and even laughed out loud now and again. Chow's prison escape. Alan's funeral performance. Chow's cock smothering. Alan's intervention. Chow's mid-heist revenge. Alan and Cassie. Chow parachuting onto the Vegas Strip. Alan and Chow's threadbare friendship. Alan, Chow. Alan, Chow. Detect a pattern? Cooper is on board to spout "what the f@#k!?" every three minutes, jam his finger on the tough guy button, and not much else. Helms is wasted (his shining moment a gag reflex). Goodman chews scenery but isn't all that memorable. Heather Graham returns without much to show for it. And a cute as a button four-year-old swipes an entire scene out from under three A-level comedians' noses. Galifianakis is hilarious, even when he isn't trying all that hard, but the trio is on autopilot. Worse, the sequel seems to exist solely because Warner wanted to put another sequel on the map and flashed enough cash to rope in the series' leading men; not because there was a third madcap adventure worth telling. (The one-minute scene that appears during the credits makes for a better trilogy capper than anything in the film proper.) I'd have rather Part III followed Chow into his crazy world of sex, drugs, guns and gold and left the Wolfpack high and dry. And at home. Spin-off anyone?
Warner's perfectly sober, show-stealing 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation does right by the Hangover series, making the most of Part III's high definition joyride. Contrast is a touch hot, as intended, but colors are often stylized but always striking, primaries are armed to the teeth, saturation is dead on, and black levels are satisfying, barring a few muted shadows. The Hangover Part III also boasts an aggressive, action-packed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that shares far more in common with that of a high-octane summer blockbuster than a chatty R-rated comedy. Dialogue is intelligible, grounded and impeccably prioritized at all times, whether the Wolfpack are whispering to one another mid-heist or screaming at the top of their lungs when the proverbial cocaine hits the fan.
Replacing Zach: The Secret Auditions: Director Todd Phillips presents a series of secret audition tapes where familiar faces audition to replace Zach Galifianakis as Alan.
Zach Galifianakis in His Own Words: Galifianakis shares his thoughts and reflections.The Wolfpack's Wildest Stunts: From an intimidated Bradley Cooper to a nervous but exciteable Ken Joeng, the cast and crew discuss the third film's stunts and action sequences.
Pushing the Limits: The perils and joys of shooting with animals and children.
Inside Focus: The Real Chow: Is Leslie Chow really Ken Joeng? Or is Joeng really Chow?
Action Mash-Up: A rapidfire montage of the film's action beats.
Extended Scenes: Three quick-hit extended scenes.Outtakes: Improved hilarity courtesy of the Wolfpack.
Perhaps in a few years Phillips and company will come up with a worthwhile Hangover sequel. This isn't it. It's better than Part II, I'll give it that, but trumping that disaster isn't much of a feat. The Hangover Part III idles along until, by film's end, you'll be muttering, "that's it? That's all they've got?" So until Part IV becomes a reality -- if it ever becomes a reality (all signs point to no) -- fans will need to cling even tighter to the first film. It may be the only Hangover worth revisiting. At least Warner's Blu-ray release delivers the AV goods. Does it justify the cost of admission? That depends entirely on how devoted you are to the Wolfpack. If you enjoyed Part II, chances are you'll find something to love about Part III. Just don't set your expectations too high.