The Hangover Part III calls to order another meeting of the “Wolf Pack” – as dubbed by Alan (Galifianakis), the idiot glue in the series’ quartet of friends forever finding themselves in mortal peril – but it also makes it clear from the get-go that this is the last outing. I suspect the “this is the end” messaging is a hedged bet: The first sequel put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, but the dangle of finality bumps the second sequel from “save-to-Netflix” status to “might as well see this thing through to the finish greased with movie theatre popcorn.”
Is it worth your while? Well, how much is your while worth? And on a scale of 0 to 10, how funny do you find giraffe decapitation? (Oh, simmer down, spoilerphobes – it’s in the trailer.) There’s no reproducing the bracing newness of the first film, released in 2009 – a hard-R comedy at once outrageous, bleak, and left-field sincere in its belief in the curative powers of friendship. A lot’s happened since then: Bradley Cooper, who plays the alpha Phil, now has an Oscar nomination under his belt; Ed Helms, moral but twitchy Stu, became a latter-era linchpin of The Office; Galifianakis’ once-brilliant bizarro-ness keeps getting hacked up like a hairball in same-feeling roles (somebody please find him his Punch-Drunk Love); and Ken Jeong, as the sociopathic Chow, has found parts that don’t require him to speak pidgin English.
With this third film, series helmer Todd Phillips (co-scripting with Craig Mazin) burns at least part of the schematic – no hangover, no piecing together a night lost to a blackout. The tight timeline remains, though: When Bartha’s character is kidnapped by Goodman’s gangster, the remaining bros must journey into another dark night of the soul to save their friend. There are a few distinguished set-pieces (even if the film has nothing original to say about Tijuana or Vegas, Phillips still knows how to evocatively lens these locales), and the polished, professional cast elevates the mostly uninspired dialogue. In the end – and unless the box office breaks records, this is in fact the end – it is what is. We’ve had some good laughs. Let’s part amicably.