Alan, the man-child who made a star of actor Zach Galifianakis, succinctly summarizes "The Hangover" franchise in a conversation with Mr. Chow: "When we get together, bad things happen and people get hurt."
But Mr. Chow (played by Ken Jeong) responds with a rejoinder that's just as true: "Yeah, that's the point, it's funny."
In "The Hangover Part III," the final film in the franchise, badder things happen and people get even more hurt. It's the darkest entry in the trilogy that extended the boundaries for the R-rated comedy. Fortunately, as Mr. Chow notes, it's still funny. Not as funny as "The Hangover," which was a sui generis film no one could replicate, but better than "The Hangover Part II," which stuck too close to the story of the original. No one wakes up in "The Hangover Part III" with a killer headache and no memory of what happened the night before -- not until the last few minutes of the movie, anyway.
Instead, director Todd Phillips and co-writer Craig Mazin have come up with a story in which the Wolf Pack blazes new trails while revisiting old haunts. Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) reluctantly agree to Doug's (Justin Bartha) plan to spring an intervention on Alan and drive him to a rehab center in Arizona. Alan's gone off his meds and recently decapitated a giraffe on a highway (famously and shockingly seen in the movie's trailer).
|'The Hangover Part III'|
|» Rating: 3 out of 4 stars|
|» Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong|
|» Director: Todd Phillips|
|» Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity|
|» Running time: 110 minutes|
But no plan ever goes as scheduled for the Wolf Pack. They're intercepted by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster who wants the $21 million Mr. Chow stole from him. Chow has just broken out of the Bangkok prison he was deposited into at the end of "Part II," from where, Marshall learned, Chow regularly communicated with Alan. Marshall kidnaps Doug and says the Wolf Pack will get him back when they find and deliver Mr. Chow. ("Can you take Stu instead?" Alan whines.)
And so the boys, in Phil's minivan (shudder), make their way first to Tijuana, where they bond with Chow over karaoke -- Chow sings Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" with much conviction -- before Chow inevitably double-crosses them and gets away. With another $20 million stolen from Marshall.
They learn that Chow has fled to Las Vegas, the perfect place to end the series that started in Sin City. "I told myself I'd never come back," Stu groans. "Don't worry," Phil tells him. "It all ends tonight."
Not before a lot of high jinx, of course, involving hookers, cocaine, a familiar stripper (Heather Graham, reprising her role), her now-toddler-aged baby, a pawnshop owner as crazy as Alan (played by Melissa McCarthy), and quite a bit of gun play. The scene in which Alan reconnects with the baby from the first installment is darkly hilarious -- and I mean darkly. But then, this is a movie in which the most engaging character -- Mr. Chow, of course -- yells, out of nowhere, "I love cocaine!"
"I never saw anyone get killed before," Phil says at one point, reminding us that the wild antics of the first two tops could still be topped. What can't be is the special surprise that came with the first entry, the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever made. But the charismatic Phil, put-upon Stu, and simply daft Alan are still plenty fun to spend a couple hours with, even if one of them does drive a minivan. Something tells me none of us can even come close to imagining what those boys will get up to now that the camera will no longer be following them around.