Starring : Bradley Cooper, Jamie Chung, Zach Galifianakis, Melissa McCarthy, John Goodman, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha

Director : Todd Phillips

Release Date : 24 May 2013

Radically different from the previous two films, Part III still packs some big laughs and is a fitting if unnecessary finale.

SEQUELS, especially unnecessary ones, are a drag. The Hangover may have its detractors, but there’s no denying that it was remarkably funny and fresh, pulling no punches and taking no prisoners with its vulgar, non-PC jokes.

Followers of director Todd Phillips weren’t that surprised as he showed the same run of form as his earlier film Old School, an unsung classic of the “bromance” sub-genre.

Talented as he is, he should have left well enough alone and not even thought about making a sequel. Part II, predictably, fell victim to the law of diminishing returns. Phillips must have listened to the complaining howls that greeted that movie, and he’s chosen to almost completely break with the formula in The Hangover Part III.

There’s no hangover this time (except for a tacked-on sequence during the end credits, so don’t miss it), which means that there are no hilarious consequences to deeds the characters don’t remember committing, and no piecing together of forgotten events. Basically, the whole concept that was the bedrock of the previous two movies has vanished here.

There is still a “mission” that needs to be accomplished and a tight time-frame for this to be done, but it’s completely different from what came before it. The only element the filmmakers have retained is getting Doug (Justin Bartha) written out of the picture as early as possible. Apart from that, The Hangover Part III ambitiously (and quite admirably) takes the Wolfpack into fresh and unfamiliar territory.

Its members are still the same. There’s Alan (Zach Galifianakis) the loon, Stu (Ed Helms) the dentist, and Phil (Bradley Cooper). But this time around, death makes its presence felt throughout. The film begins with a giraffe dying on a freeway (I have no idea why anyone would think this is actually funny), followed by the death of Alan’s dad, and again when a gangster named Marshall (John Goodman) appears and forces the Wolfpack to track down Mr Chow (cult favourite Ken Jeong), who has stolen US$21 million from him. If they fail to deliver Chow and the money to him, Marshall will kill Doug.

So what we have here is more or less a vulgar comedy which fancies itself a heist thriller, as the film is set around two thefts that take place in Tijuana, Mexico – and Las Vegas, where it all began. But since this is a comedy, the more pertinent question has got to be: is it funny? The answer will depend on whether or not you find Galifianakis’ by-now-too-familiar bizarre loony act funny, and if you also feel the same way about Jeong’s manic-Asian-guy schtick. Say yes to both of the above and the answer will be yes, the movie is gloriously, gut-bustingly funny. Say no and you can guess what to expect, too.

As for me, I’m definitely more in the former camp especially when it comes to Jeong’s hilariously rude antics, which I’ve yet to tire of even though he’s often typecast and goes through the same act in other films and even on the popular TV series Community.

Also raising the comedy stakes is Goodman in his brief but memorable performance as Marshall, more or less replicating the mannerisms of Walter Sobchak, his character in the cult classic The Big Lebowski. Goodman earns big laughs even when he’s scaring the crap out of the Wolfpack.

This movie has a more focused plot on which to hang its jokes (at least, compared to the anything-goes structure of the first two films), but this doesn’t mean it is above making some narrative detours to drop in a filthy joke or two, just because it can.

We can be grateful because this gifts us with Melissa McCarthy’s alternately nasty, funny and sweet performance as Cassie, and also a surprise detour into the home of Jade (Heather Graham), Stu’s stripper sweetheart in the first movie, and Alan’s ensuing reunion with the now-(slightly)-older “baby Carlos”.

The movie’s mixture of action-thriller elements, crude comedy and sentimental schmaltz may not blend as well as Phillips would have liked, but the film at least defies the law of diminishing returns just by trying to be different.

So, even if it isn’t as strikingly funny as the first one, as far as summer comedies go, this one will do quite nicely, thank you.