Review: 'The Hangover Part III' worth a shot

Director stays away from rehash in third installment

There will never be another "The Hangover." And where "The Hangover, Part II" failed in its attempt to recreate the decadence and debauchery of the first, "The Hangover, Part III" knows its place.

It is almost as if everyone involved in the movie is offering up a sly wink -- hey, we know we'll never be able to make a movie to top that uber success, so just sit back and enjoy the ride, for what it's worth.

Forty-two year old man child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) begins the parade of lunacy after he buys a giraffe and drives it down the freeway in an open trailer being pulled by a Mercedes. After an unfortunate accident with the giraffe and the death of his father (Alan's ability to sing "Ave Maria" in a mezzo soprano that rivals Charlotte Church is part of an Alan-fueled tribute at Dad's funeral that's completely irresistible), his family realizes Alan has been off his meds and needs intervention. He won't go unless his best pals drive him from California to Arizona where rehab awaits. Of course, the trip is just the filmmakers' excuse to get the Wolfpack on the road and to have them hit more than a few speed bumps along the way.

Director and co-writer Todd Phillips mines the characters of Alan and Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) for all their worth in Part III. After all, they did end up being the dominant scene stealers in each of the last two installments. The rest of the "Wolfpack," Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) play peripherally to their action here. It's abundantly clear from the opening 30 minutes of the film, first with Chow making a grand, action movie-type escape from a Thai prison and then the aforementioned giraffe episode down a Southern California freeway, that Phillips has diluted the idea of an ensemble comedy, turning his attention to the two characters, who, through their sheer idiocy garner the most laughs. You'll either love this Zach and Ken show, or feel like dousing yourself in alcohol.

This time, there's no memory loss or trying to retrace blackout steps. The script, written by Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin, creates a comic crime caper, and, for better or worse, at least it's not a step by step rehash of the original like the insufferable second installment.

Chow has stolen gold from crime boss Marshall (John Goodman having a field day with his bad guy role). And, since the Wolfpack most likely knows where Chow is, at least according to Marshall, it will be their job to deliver Chow and get Marshall's gold back. And they must do it in 24 hours otherwise say goodbye to their buddy Doug, who is being held hostage.

You see where all this is going? Road trip? Clock ticking? Money and excess, which, of course, leads to Las Vegas, the scene of the original "Hangover" crime?

Heather Graham returns for a short reunion with her old friends Stu, Phil and Alan. It's one of more than a few scenes that plays to inside jokes, so for anyone who hasn't seen the first or second movies, the jokes will be lost. (Trust me. There's no shame in turning to the person you're with who is a "Hangover" junkie and asking. We're all friends here in the land of the Wolfpack.)

Melissa McCarthy is a new addition and potential love interest for Alan -- that idea itself is cause for a laugh-out-loud pause, and yes, it's just as funny as you might imagine.

But perhaps the most comical parts of "The Hangover 3" are left for last. Don't scoot out when the final credits start to roll, or you'll miss the best part. Phillips has said Part III was the grand finale of the franchise. Judging from this nakedly funny teaser after the credits, Phillips leaves you wanting more. I'm not convinced we've seen the last of the Wolfpack.