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Third time not the charm Hangover III'

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Comedy series limps to the finish line

As an actor, it has to be frustrating to be forced into a project that you aren't that interested in. Giving the kind of full commitment that a movie sometimes requires is probably difficult if you're not invested in the project.

Or even worse, if you used to be invested but aren't anymore.

'The Hangover III' is being billed as the end of a trilogy, though it's hard to imagine that writer/director Todd Phillips and the rest of his crew had any idea about where their story was going after the surprise success of the first 'Hangover' in 2009. 

And this third installment kind of plays that way.

This time around, the gang comes back together in order to help Alan (Zach Galifianakis, 'The Campaign') recover from the sudden death of his father. The family holds an intervention for Alan and includes Doug (Justin Bartha, TV's 'The New Normal'), Phil (Bradley Cooper, 'Silver Linings Playbook') and Stu (Ed Helms, TV's 'The Office').

The Wolfpack is together again.

The four hit the road to take Alan to a facility in Arizona, but while en route, they are forced off the road and confronted by a gang of thugs led by Marshall (John Goodman, 'Argo'), a drug dealer who believes them to be the key to finding the elusive Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong, TV's 'Community'), who stole millions of dollars of Marshall's gold.

Marshall takes Doug as insurance, because of course he does. This leaves Alan, Phil and Stu to somehow find Chow and bring him (and the stolen gold) to Marshall or else Doug dies. As you might expect, it doesn't prove to be easy, and the trio finds themselves back where it all began Las Vegas.

Many complained (myself among them) that the second 'Hangover' was essentially a rehash of the first with a few relatively unimportant plot details changed. That is definitely not a problem with part three. This movie is very different from its predecessors.

It might not even be a comedy.

'The Hangover III' is suffering from a hangover of its own. There's a bleariness about everything the story, the performances, even the look of the film that reeks of resignation and regret. There's very little in the way of jokes; the goal seems to have been to use the development of these three characters situationally in terms of getting laughs.

But the unfortunate truth is that with the occasional exception of Galifianakis, no one seems to be all that engaged by what they're doing. Alan's character arc semi-corrected itself from the odd turn it took in the second film, but it's still pretty one-note. Helms has some funny moments, but he's pretty much on autopilot. He knows what the character's about and coasts on that. Cooper, who is obviously in a very different place than he was four years ago career-wise, doesn't even coast. Half the time, he's pretty much checked out as bored as the audience watching.

But for better or worse, this film belongs to Jeong. The choice of focusing so much on a relatively minor character is an interesting one, but there's no disputing that Jeong embraces the opportunity wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, that embrace consists of a barely-controlled mania and twitchy energy that feels like it came from a completely different movie.

But even with all of that, 'Hangover III' could have been a good movie. The concept of revisiting these men as they start dealing with adulthood realities could have been fun and funny. Even the dark tone could have worked. But it seems clear that Phillips and the cast were there out of obligation more than any devotion to the project. It's a stab at soaking up the last few possible dollars from an idea that had passed its sell-by date.

There are flashes of the kind of movie 'Hangover III' should have been, but they're mostly obscured by apathy and antipathy. It's not particularly entertaining or engaging. Frankly, everyone involved should consider giving up drinking so that they might avoid ever having another 'Hangover.'

1.5 out of 5

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