“The Hangover: Part III” is seriously unfunny, more likely to cause hangovers for series’ fans who quite rightly expect raunchy gags and hearty laughs. Neither is to be had in this curious and almost melancholy wrap — or so the filmmakers insist — to a comedy franchise that has mined box-office gold.
The curiosity comes from ingredients that don’t add up to comedy. Such as any number of animal deaths, some quite cruel; three executions involving mob terrorists; a kidnapping; prison riot; freeway crash, a heart attack and funeral; and finally a Las Vega heist that plays like “Oceans 3.”
None of this is exactly played for laughs. It isn’t played for much seriousness either but director Todd Phillips, at the helm for all three films, doesn’t even seem to want to get chuckles this time out. Is he actually reaching for a solemn fond farewell here?
Hard to say. One thing’s for sure: All these guys are funnier when they drink. Which they barely do here.
Gone are the morning-after hangovers and regrets, the flashback narrative and uncompromising debauchery. In its place in a script credited to the director and Craig Mazin is … well, about all you can call it is something like an early midlife crisis for our Wolfpack.
Alan (Zach Galifianakis) has gone off his meds to the point that family and pack pals must stage an intervention. (It’s not clear what they’re actually intervening against since his real problem seems to stem from mental illness.)
This plot line barely gets under way when Alan along with Wolfpackers Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) get kidnapped by a mobster named Marshall (John Goodman, who never finds a comic handle for this character).
Seems Marashall blames the Wolfpack, in a circuitous fashion, for a theft of gold bars stolen by the Asian gangster, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who has bedeviled the pals in all three film. He takes hapless Doug as hostage and demands the other three bring Chow and the gold back to him for mob-style justice.
None of this is remotely funny. The heists — there are actually two, one in Mexico and another back in their old stomping ground of Las Vegas — do have a fair share of suspense that runs up to the border of humor and does win a few guffaws.
Galifianakis and Jeong wear out their welcome early on. Cooper, coming off two significant roles in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” gets sufficiently in the spirit of things to provide light charm, but Helms, Bartha and even Goldman have little to do.
Heather Graham puts in an appearance that is little more than that — an appearance.
It remains for Melissa McCarthy in a cameo as a Vegas pawn broker to supply much-needed humor. It comes a little too late to salvage much of the movie, however.
Kudos to a production team that delivers first-class compositions and terrific sets, meaning d.p. Lawrence Sher and production designer Maher Ahmad.
Opens: May 23 (Warner Bros.)
Production companies: Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures presents a Green Hat Films production
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenwriters: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Producers: Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg
Executive producers: Thomas Tull, Scott Budnick, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink
Director of photography: Lawrence Sher
Production designer: Maher Ahmad
Music: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Louise Mingenbach
Editors: Debra Neil-Fisher, Jeff Groth
R rating, 100 minutes