For a franchise known for pushing boundaries, The Hangover Part III isn't nearly outrageous enough. In his wild 2009 original, Todd Phillips goosed the stale men-behaving-badly formula, giving it a rude, hard-R twist. But his Bangkok-set 2011 follow-up felt like a road trip on cruise control. I don't know why, but I came to the latest (and final) chapter with bullish optimism. It seemed like a perfect chance for a course correction, tapping back into the first film's whacked-out Wolfpack spirit. Oh, well.
Hangover III is Alan's story. Played again by the manic potbellied elf Zach Galifianakis, Alan has decided to go off his meds, which results in some bad decisions (even for him), including a joyride with an ill-fated giraffe. An intervention is staged, and it's up to Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms, whose Maori face tattoo has been lasered off), and Doug (Justin Bartha, quickly sidelined again) to take him to rehab in Arizona. During a pit stop in Vegas, they hook up with some familiar faces: Mike Epps' Black Doug, Heather Graham's Jade, Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow. They're also introduced to Marshall (John Goodman), an ascot-wearing heavy who forces the boys to track down Chow and recover $21 million in gold bars that the cocaine-fueled imp has stolen. Mild mayhem ensues.
Part caper, part coming-of-adulthood story, Hangover III never settles into a debauched groove. As a Sin City romp, it's too tame. And as a ''very special'' ode to Alan's journey to responsibility, it's a miscalculation of what fans want from a series featuring a smoking monkey. That said, you should stick around for the end credits because there's a Helms sight gag that's absolutely priceless. The movie could've used more laughs like that one. B-