The marketing campaign for The Hangover Part III is largely centered around the idea that this movie marks the conclusion of the series.
Indeed, the film’s posters boast taglines including “The end” and “It ends,” and the movie itself includes lines of dialogue like “It all ends tonight.”
(It’s subtle, I know.)
But anyone who’s seen all three films, as I have, would agree: This is a series that should have ended after the first one. After all, the first sequel was nothing more than a carbon copy of the original Hangover, just set in a different city, with more raunch and a lot fewer laughs. Now we have a second sequel that’s not very funny and isn’t even about a hangover, but certainly feels like one.
It ends tonight? Damn. What took you so long?
This time out, the Wolfpack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) get mixed up with a bad guy named Marshall (John Goodman), who has a score to settle with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). As it turns out, Chow’s recently escaped from a Bangkok prison (look out for the homage to Shawshank Redemption), and he owes Marshall some gold. So the guys travel to Tijuana and then back to Las Vegas to find him, and along the way, they clean up some of the messes they made in the previous two movies.
Essentially, by ditching the hangover premise, and turning the film into a straight-on action/comedy, writer/director Todd Phillips has done away with the gimmick that made the series interesting in the first place. There’s none of the frenzied exasperation when Phil and Stu realize how stupid they acted the night before, no crazy tattoos or Mike Tyson encounters, and definitely no meetups in sleazy strip joints where the sexual identity of the strippers is up for debate. There’s not even a photo album of crazy pictures to look at during the closing credits. Instead, the film coasts on what we know of the characters, focusing mostly on how annoying Alan is, and how devious Chow is — two characters who are better in smaller doses. (A post-credits scene indicates that Philips realized his mistake and put together a last-ditch effort to please fans. It doesn’t help.)
Perhaps the only consistency with the other films is the fact that the fourth member of the group, Doug (Justin Bartha), who always seems to get left out of the “fun,” here suffers the same fate when he’s held as collateral early on. That joke may be the biggest laugh of the entire film — unless you find a decapitated giraffe to be funny. (Full disclosure: I do. Especially when accompanied by Hanson’s “MMMBop” on the soundtrack.)
Sure, there are some mildly amusing callbacks to the previous films, such as when Alan reconnects with Heather Graham’s character’s now-older kid from the first film, and Melissa McCarthy pops up in a glorified cameo that’s out of place but not completely unwelcome. But overall, The Hangover Part III squanders what remaining charm was left after Part II. It isn’t funny enough, raunchy enough, or surprising enough to be a worthy addition to a series that probably should never have been a series in the first place.
Let’s hope the marketing campaign isn’t just a big lie.
This review originally appeared on Martin’s Musings.