There is a certain amount of raunchiness, absurdity and juvenile humor expected from the "Hangover" films. The name itself makes it clear this isn't a Mensa tea party.
The name might suggest low-level hijinks, but "The Hangover Part III" never delivers. If there was ever a movie made just to bleed a few dollars more out of loyal fans of the series, it's this badly written, painfully paced flotsam and jetsam of the film world. Think of it as the gonorrhea of filmmaking -- something you should avoid at all costs because it causes nothing but lingering pain and misery.
The movie's ills start with the uninspired script by director Todd Phillips (the man behind all three films) and Craig Mazin. The first two films followed a format: A group of buddies wakes up after a wild night with no memory of what happened. The humor comes when the guys backtrack their way through insane situations they cannot recall.
"Hangover III" is more of an "Ocean's Eleven" sequel. There's no wild night, no morning-after regret or crazy trek for the truth. This time, three buddies -- Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) -- get sidetracked while transporting Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a facility where he can get help for his mental instability. They are forced to track down Chow (Ken Jeong), who has swindled a criminal kingpin (John Goodman) out of $21 million in gold.
So instead of the buddies blindly searching for the truth about their wild night, the film becomes a heist movie. They break into a home, steal gold, kill a few people and turn the streets on Las Vegas into a real version of the video game "Grand Theft Auto."
It was easier to root for the buddies in the first two movies because all of their wild actions were done during a night they couldn't remember. Now, the actions just seem criminal.
A fine line exists between forgivable drug-induced actions and just being unforgivingly mean.
In one scene, Chow smothers a fighting rooster to death with a pillow. Instead of the scene ending with a twist of black humor, it ends up being the kind of dark moment that scars a character so badly there's no way to win the audience's sympathy.
Equally disturbing is a conversation Alan has with a young boy who was an infant in the first movie. Phillips and Mazin might have been trying to make Alan's character less annoying by showing a warmer side, but when they end the conversation without a comedy kick, it plays out as mean.
Jeong and Galifianakis already play absurdly annoying characters, and they didn't need these kinds of scenes to make them even less likable.
The little that did work in the first movies has been ignored. Because this is more about regaining gold than finding dignity, the movie doesn't even have the over-the-top humor of Parts I and II. There's an additional scene at the end that plays out as if the filmmakers realized they hadn't put any of the raunchy "Hangover" elements in the movie and decided to throw them together at the end.
There's a moment where Helms' character finds himself back in Las Vegas. Because of the agony the city represents to him, he laments that the entire city should be burnt to the ground. If it meant there would be no more "Hangover" movies, it's really not that bad of an idea.
MOVIE REVIEW"The Hangover Part III," opens Thursday, May 23, rated R for language, drug use, graphic nudity, violence. Stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong. Directed by Todd Phillips. Running time: 100 minutes. Grade: F Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559)441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter.