1. The Hangover, Part III is better than Part II, but not by much, and really only because it didn't just recycle, almost beat for beat, the plot of the first film. The plot it lands on this time isn't much better, though, and all told, it doesn't have much more energy than that film did. The two sequels to The Hangover don't even have the energy to try to recapture the lunacy of original; they can barely muster up enough juice just to bring the cast back together into the same shot every once in a while. These movies have become such a franchise—it amazed me to see a Hangover-themed slot machine at a St. Louis riverboat casino—that people are starting to forget what made the first film so funny and so fresh. These two sequels are doing their part in that as well.
2. The plot this time is so dull and derivative that you wonder if they should have just gone ahead and remade the first film again, as some sort of Dadaist stunt. The gimmick: After the death of his father, Alan needs to be transported to some sort of mental health facility, and Phil, Stu, and Doug agree to accompany him there. But lo! Turns out a mobster (John Goodman) is trying to find their old adversary Mr. Chow, and he takes Doug hostage until they can locate Chow. The rest of the film is them finding Chow, losing Chow, finding Chow again, losing Chow again, and then the movie finally ends.
3. What's strangest about The Hangover Part III is how, well, not funny it is. I don't mean that it makes a bunch of jokes that don't work; I mean that there are not a lot of jokes. It's basically a series of action set pieces—our heroes in a car chase! our heroes in an armed standoff! our heroes rappelling down a building!—that contain little to no dialogue other than "look out!" and "oh shit!" I guess we are supposed to laugh, out of simple muscle memory and because of all the goodwill built up toward these characters, but the movie never even bothers to give them amusing things to say. Director Todd Phillips has an ear for comedy and a surprisingly sharp visual eye—these movies always look better than they have to—but he is not an action director, and you find yourself yawning through the car chases, waiting for these characters to start interacting with each other again. And it never happens.
4. The movie is wise enough to focus itself almost entirely on the Alan character, who in the second film was weirdly peevish and cruel but is a little more recognizably Alan this time. Galifianakis slept through the second film but brings a tad more effort this time, particularly in scenes with Melissa McCarthy, who plays an unlikely love interest. Out of nowhere, though, the movie turns oddly mawkish in its last 20 minutes, as if this were, like, an arc or something. Bradley Cooper and (especially) Ed Helms look lost and narcotized in this version too, as if they know they have to do this for contractual reasons but would really love it if this could get wrapped up by 7, if possible. They're not too taxed, though: The movie gives them little to do other than react to a car crash, or something wacky Alan did. Also, it is worth noting that the appeal of Ken Jeong, particularly as this repellant character, is an absolute mystery to me. I guess I'm not sure what the joke with him is supposed to be.
5. More than anything, though, you'll find yourself looking for jokes in The Hangover, Part III that aren't there. Remember, the fun of the first film was in the discovery of these archetypes (the smug handsome asshole, the nerd, the underdeveloped space alien) and the mystery of what, precisely, happened last night. There has been none of that in the last two movies, and this one, in particular, seems to be straining for any possible reason to exist. Phillips and company know they might have undercooked this one, too. There's a "shocking!" after-credit coda that seems to admit, oh yeah, we forget to put in any actual COMEDY. Sorry about that. Try this, maybe? The gag isn't that hilarious, but after 90 minutes of everybody just killing time, you at least appreciate the half-hearted attempt. Finally.
These movies are surely done now, and for that we should be grateful. They haven't had any new ideas in two films. By Part IV, we'd just see these actors sitting around a table, occasionally waving to the camera, checking their cellphones, stretching from time to time. That'd be an improvement, actually. That might be fun.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.