Many trilogies subscribe to a common tactic; let's refer to it as the Trilogy Prestige (imagine Michael Cain's voice from the film The Prestige: "Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call 'The Prestige'"
To give you some insight as to what I am talking about, think back to Die Hard; the first film the antagonist is thrown from a building, second film has an unrelated plot, while the third acts as a direct link to the first with the return of the Gruber family, bypassing any reference to Die Hard 2. In the first Star Wars trilogy, the Prestige was the Death Star. In The Dark Knight trilogy the Prestige was the League of Shadows. In Sam Raimi's Spiderman trilogy the Prestige was Uncle Ben's killer. Before there was an Elm St. part 4, the protagonist from the first returns for the third. My theory is not just trivia, it is a fun game!
How this theory applies to The Hangover part 3 is simple: it takes the premise of the first movie, a simple plot point, and reveals it as the butterfly effect on the events of the third. While they return to Las Vegas, there is some emphasis on the second film with Chow, the out of control Asian man whom always brings chaos to the Wolf Pack.
The most astonishing thing about this movie is that it is a comedy concept, but this thing builds tons of suspense. Todd Phillips has a big bag of funny movies as his product, but after seeing this I would not be surprised to see him do a big budget Bad Boys style buddy cop film. There is one scene that is one of the most suspenseful things I have seen in a long time. The entire theater was on the edge of their seat in this moment, and in great form, the suspense is capped off with a large dose of humour.
This movie is still a comedy, and it is a good one. While the second film plays like a mirror to the first, this one you have no idea where the story is going to go. You half expect it to borrow from those two movies, but the humour here is new and not the same re-hashed jokes. The literal concept of The Hangover is not present in this film. The Wolf Pack did not have to put the pieces together from the previous night, and there wasn't an "I can't believe this happened again" moment. At least not in the way you would expect. We don't find Stu disfigured for the course of the movie, we don't have an unpredictable variable character like a baby or a monkey to keep them on their toes, the only common thread for the wolf pack really is the absence of Doug. There is also a surprising level of humanity bestowed on Alan. This time around he isn't just awkward to humorous results, he is unbalanced and his friends and family call him out on it.
The use of popular music and obscure alt-rock is still present. Those of you expecting to hear Danzig in the opening credits will just need to be patient. This was actually the first sign that we were not on the same tired journey.
As with the pacing of the film, the visuals were grandiose. There was no shortage of expensive shots, such as panoramic imagery, sky shots, or banged up vehicles. This is one of the few comedy franchises that call for a big budget.
For those who were not impressed with the second part, I encourage you to see this. Those who did enjoy it will not be disappointed here either. One thing is certain; by the end of this one you will likely have your fill of the Wolf Pack and their adventures. It isn't that you are tired of them; you are just tired for them. The progression each time begs to question why they all don't suffer from PTSD. I hope they let these guys rest, and I hope Todd Phillips turns his attention to something where big action comes first and comedy is second.