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Review: Wolf Pack lacks bite in tamer 'Hangover Part III'

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The Wolf Pack is back, but it's the nefarious and hilarious Mr. Chow who steals the show in "The Hangover Part III," a solid yet inferior second sequel to the 2009 blockbuster comedy.

Fans shocked by the raunchy antics of 2011's "Part II" will be happy to know that there's considerably less of that edgy sort comedy here, but for everybody else, "Part III" is far too tame. It really begs the question, "Where's Mike Tyson and his pet tiger when you need them?"

Another wild animal certainly figures into the plot of "The Hangover Part III," a giraffe that the man-child Alan (Zach Galifianakis) buys because, well, the rich kid's always wanted one. Given the extensive reveal of the trailer and the TV spots, it's no shocker to tell that the long-necked animal meets an unfortunate demise at a highway underpass -- an event that drives Alan's father (Jeffrey Tambor) to the edge, and ultimately, to his grave.

As a result, Alan's family decides to stage an intervention. Since he's been off his medication for the past six months, Alan's obvious destination is a treatment center -- but he only agrees to go when his fellow Wolf Packers Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), and brother-in-law, Doug (Justin Bartha), promise they'll take him there.

On the way to the road to the facility, Phil's car is run off the road and the four are kidnapped. Turns out the monster thorn in the Wolf Pack's side in the first two films, the manic gangster Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), ripped off millions of dollars in gold from another mobster named Marshall (the always great John Goodman) -- and Marshall is on the hunt for Chow because he's escaped from prison in Bangkok.

So, Marshall makes Phil, Alan and Stu a deal and it's quite simple: Find Mr. Chow in 72 hours, or Marshall will kill Doug.

See my review of "The Hangover Part III" on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce below.

The biggest problem with "The Hangover Part III" is that there's no hangover, so to speak, driving the narrative. It was a completely refreshing twist in the first film seeing Phil, Alan and Stu retrace their steps from a Las Vegas bachelor party-gone-really, really bad in the first film, and all the insane circumstances that ensued. And while the second film drew criticism from fans and critics for essentially repeating the same set-up (with the exception that it was set in Bangkok) at least it was daring enough to up the comedy ante with some very, very crude scenarios.

And therein lies the damaging flaw in "The Hangover Part III" -- it just isn't dangerous enough. Sure, there are plenty of perverse moments and some welcome plot diversions along the way, but ultimately the movie comes off as a more of procedural comedy where a group of friends have a clear solution in mind to find their way out of a serious mess -- rather than being forced to navigate through the inspired and unpredictable plots that preceded them.

Despite its more straight-up approach, "The Hangover Part III" does have its share of great things going for it. Jeong is a laugh riot as Mr. Chow, and shows once again that's there are no boundaries when it comes to getting a laugh.

Galifianakis is hilarious, too, especially at the beginning of the movie, but he's no match for Jeong once Mr. Chow comes along. Cooper and Helms are completely engaging, too, and there's no denying that when they're with Galifianakis and Jeong, there's a definite chemistry there. Heather Graham shows up, too, bringing back great memories of Alan's "baby," Carlos, from the first film.

Director and co-writer Todd Phillips has promised in promotional materials for the film that this is "The End" of the series, or is it? Along the way, a soul mate for one of the pack is introduced with a great new character played by the uproarious Melissa McCarthy, who also figures prominently in a vital after-credits scene. Without question it's the wildest scene in the film, leaving open the possibility for "The Hangover Part IV."

If Phillips and company decide to go that route, we've all but been guaranteed the sort of inspired "Hangover" comedy that we're used to seeing. Maybe, just maybe, the members of the Wolf Pack will have another chance to get their bite back.

"The Hangover Part III," rated R, 2.5 stars out of 4.

See the trailer for "The Hangover Part III" below.

What other local critics are saying ...

Chris Hewitt says in his 3 star review for the Pioneer Press that "even if the first movie's element of surprise is impossible to recapture, 'III' is such an improvement over 'II' that it sends this series out on an upbeat note."

Colin Covert gives the film 3 stars in his Star Tribune review, saying the film's trio of stars "stumble across the finish line of their misadventure trilogy in rare and raunchy form, dragging the boundaries for perverse comedy along with them."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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