The Hangover Part III (15) **Directed by: Todd Philips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
In the circumstances, two stars might be considered a minor triumph. 2009’s patchy original made so much money that sequels were inevitable; the real shocker was the $586m the Bangkok-set Part II took, despite being as quantifiably lousy as anything released in 2011. We’ve now come so far from whatever distinguished the original that, until a post-credits sting, nobody here gets remotely pished. Instead, director Philips ups Part II’s stuntwork while turning his fabled Wolf Pack into a schlubbier Ocean’s 11, pursued through the Vegas underworld by aggrieved heavy Marshall (John Goodman).
It isn’t a radical overhaul, but it permits greater clarity and respite: fewer ladyboys, for one, and more space for Ken Jeong’s amusingly unhinged Mr. Chow. The usual sticking points remain: variably charmless leads, a near-total absence of anything for women to do. Yet toning down the laddishness casts the once-flimsy central relationships in a newly affectionate light. With one anti-Semitic joke that everyone on screen blanches at, a franchise premised on going too far finally arrives at some understanding of moderation: it’s not necessarily any funnier, but proves somehow more bearable for it.
The Hangover Part III is in cinemas nationwide.