Maybe it would have been better just to rehash the plot of the first movie again. The creators of The Hangover Part III seem so stung by accusations that The Hangover Part II was a carbon copy of the 2009 original (which, let’s face it, it was) that they’ve instead created a completely different kind of movie that features the same characters but has gone from being a madcap, occasionally dark comedy to a surprisingly intense thriller, complete with murder, kidnapping, a prison riot, a complicated heist and multiple car chases.
Friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are all back, but this time they aren’t attending a wedding or waking up after a crazy night with no memory of what happened. Instead they’re attacked and abducted by crime boss Marshall (John Goodman), who orders them to track down the diabolical Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), an over-the-top character whose presence has become increasingly important in the series. As incentive, Marshall holds onto Doug, once again leaving Bartha with just a handful of scenes. The remaining trio travels to Mexico and eventually to Las Vegas in search of Chow, although the return to the setting of the first movie turns out to be pretty anti-climactic (and only lasts about half an hour).
Even more so than before, Cooper and Helms are basically playing straight man to Galifianakis as naïve man-child Alan and, in this installment, Jeong, whose performance is more grating the more time he spends onscreen. Worst of all (even for forgiving fans of the series), Part III just isn’t funny. There are long stretches in which director and co-writer Todd Phillips doesn’t even appear to be aiming for humor, and the jokes that do come are mostly feeble—except when they’re disturbingly graphic (the big comedic moment in the movie’s opening involves a giraffe beheading). There are no quotable lines here, just an unpleasant, mean-spirited story that attempts to retroactively tie the events of the two previous movies into a larger narrative. What was once fresh and fun is now just obnoxious and worn out.