“The Hangover Part III” deviates from the formula that served the first two installments so well, and pays a hefty price. Nothing in this threequel comes close to matching “The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II” until an Easter Egg scene inserted partway through the end credits. Director and co-writer Todd Phillips has literally put the engine on after the caboose.
Audiences are likely to expect Wolf Packers Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha), reunited to take the crazier-than-usual Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to rehab, will get somehow sidetracked and wake up from a blackout in a hotel room. That’s not what happens this time around. They’re kidnapped by gangsters looking for the elusive Mr. Chow, who’s played for the third time by Ken Jeong, this time with far less charm than usual.
“The Hangover” movies have always flirted with film noir, and the premise, particularly of the first one, could easily be a straight crime movie. The problem with “Part III” is that’s exactly what they’ve done. It’s lightened with some comic relief, most of which is in the trailers, but this is by far the least funny entry in the series. The thing with sequels is audiences usually want to be surprised while getting more of the same. “The Hangover Part III” offers little in the way of surprise while ironically not providing enough of the same.
Fans of the first two movies who can content themselves with a comparatively anemic class reunion will enjoy this outing fine. Bradley Cooper, as the sociopathic Phil, doesn’t get tortured enough this time around, but Cooper’s on-screen charisma is undeniable. Justin Bartha, who should be used to being the series’ off-camera straight man by now, has, if anything, less to do than usual. Zach Galifianakis is beginning to repeat himself, other than his scenes with series newcomer Melissa McCarthy, who “Part III” could have used more of. Ed Helms’ Stu emerges as the heart and soul of the movie, and a reminder, do not skip the end credits.
It might also be argued that the filmmakers should have found a setting other than Las Vegas, the principal setting of the first movie. You could argue that they’re going back to the scene of the crime, but after the setting the second movie so successfully in Bangkok, it would have seemed to make sense to use new settings in each sequel.
That being said, “The Hangover Part III” is a well-crafted movie, with moodier photography than needed and some well-executed action. Where it’s lacking is the shock and awe department. There’s nothing in the movie that will have audiences saying “They did not just do that” until the Easter Egg during the end credits. No matter what they’re saying in the advertising, they’re set up for another sequel, and that one would probably be better.