In the latest, and hopefully last installment of Todd Phillips’ ludicrously successful Hangover Trilogy, the ‘Wolf Pack’ – Alan (Zach Galifianakas), Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) – find themselves at the mercy of a mob boss, Marshall (John Goodman), who has been ripped off by Mr Chow (Ken Jeong).

Threatening to kill the token hostage, Doug (Justin Bartha), he instructs them to locate Chow, who has just broken out of prison, and his missing gold bullion. The reason they are intercepted on the road? Callow man-child Alan has gone off his meds and his behaviour has escalated into new realms of ‘destructive’ so his friends agree to escort him to a psych facility.

The basis for this plot is a series of extended loose ends, which no one knew existed and have been drawn from very thin influences. The repercussions of their adventures in Vegas and Bangkok led to the events in this film, but the motivation behind it seems to be the ludicrous idea to have the intolerable Chow enter their lives again.

The jokes here, if you can call them that, are a little toned down from Part II, but they are still cringe-worthy and leave an awful taste. They adorn an action-packed crime plot, and the characters find themselves in stressful situations including a mansion break-in, Mexican prison and a rooftop descent off a Vegas casino. The rampant racist and homophobic jokes were expected, I guess, but now the gags involve the death of animals (repeatedly!), disrespect for the dead and the potential poisoning of a young child’s vision of his father. Good laughs.

The selling point for this film was the return of the ‘Wolf Pack’ to where it all began. It takes close to an hour for them to get there, after the plot has gone in circles. Admittedly, this is where the film actually picks up. Their infiltration of the Penthouse Suite of Caesar’s Palace and a car chase through the streets of Vegas are actually pretty entertaining, and some of the photography is quite impressive.

While the shake-up of the formula is refreshing there is almost no semblance of the craziness that made the first films funny and successful. Part II was criticized for lacking inventiveness and following the preceding routine. That’s fair. I kind of enjoyed Part II and I say that a little guiltily. I felt like the darker brand of humour and the seedy Bangkok location were evidence that Phillips was interested in taking this franchise to a different level. It felt more inventive than this lazy mess, anyway. The characters are there, but there is no post-binge ‘wake up’. No mystery. The film’s title is the biggest head-scratcher of all.

I think I have had a gripe with Galifianakas and Alan since the first film. He’s not a character. He is a piece of comedy mechanization who says and does anything that might provoke a laugh. In the first film, they were mostly hits. Now the balance is wildly askew in the other direction. Like Chow, his inconsistencies as a ‘character’ are manipulated to serve plot progression and that has never been more apparent than here. His naivety gets them into the mess, but then he possesses exactly what they need to have order restored. But at least the first film had strong enough smarts to avoid reliance on this. Within minutes, Alan’s antics grow tiring. The film’s shockingly unfunny opening sequences say it all. There’s another awful speech, another pass at Phil, and another tantrum about how no one respects his intelligence.

Cooper’s Phil has always been a dick, but he’s the most rational, while Helm’s Stu is the panicker and usually cops the brunt of some bodily defamation. There’s nothing like that here, except a bruised ego about his profession. Watching them all bicker as they try and concoct a plan, and Stu and Phil’s reactions to Alan’s brash matter-of-fact advice, is the most entertaining trait of these films, but here it is off the mark. The chemistry suffers. Both are sidelined for Alan and Chow to chew up the screen, which is an irredeemable decision. This is unfortunate because I think both Cooper and Helms were very well cast. What more could they have done will material this woeful?

The involvement of Melissa McCarthy in every comedy ever made since Bridesmaids is wearing me out. Despite mere minutes of screen time, it was too much. Her character in Feig’s film (and here) is cut from the same mould as Alan – an overbearingly loud, oblivious pest - but there is just something unsetting about their connection to one another here.

Part III is a soulless money-grab of a franchise defunct of ideas. Shockingly unfunny, even when it tries to be, everyone is operating on different comedic tenors. Phillips has tried to shake things up in a lame attempt to finish what he started, but this is truly horrifying. 

[rating=0] Half

Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22

Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.