"The Hangover Part III": Draining the Glass

There's no actual hangover in the third installment of the blackout-themed franchise, but enduring this laugh-free sequel nonetheless does elicit a sick, queasy feeling. Director Todd Phillips' beautiful panoramas of the Arizona desert and Sin City skyline (the latter amusingly scored to Danzig's lascivious "Mother") lend an ill-fitting measure of aesthetic panache to an episodic tale that's been cobbled together with almost mind-boggling carelessness. The story, as it were, involves Bradley Cooper's Hunk, Ed Helms' Wimp and Zach Galifianakis' Weirdo attempting to catch Ken Jeong's Psycho for John Goodman's Criminal in order to save Justin Bartha's Cipher. The ensuing odyssey features heists, animal cruelty (decapitated giraffe, coke-addled chickens), gay-panic gags and flat nods to the original film, though the main focus is on the bizarre riffing of Galifianakis, who sings "Ave Maria" and flirts with Melissa McCarthy's kindred mom-hating lunatic. The occasional improvised one-liner aside, Part III boasts few genuine jokes, instead vainly striving to drum up chaotic comedy through desperately busy plotting that ditches its predecessors' signature what-happened-last-night? flashback structure. Apparently drunk on their prior successes, everyone involved seems to have forgotten that the series was predicated not on these one-dimensional characters, but on a now-tiresome, and here altogether absent, narrative conceit.

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