In a 1997 episode of The Simpsons, rotund patriarch Homer stood before the residents of Springfield with a glass of cold beer and encouraged his neighbours to join him in a toast.
“To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems,” he professed.
Director Todd Phillips has been drinking from the same barrel as Homer since 2009 when his booze-fuelled bender The Hangover became an unexpected smash hit and snagged a coveted Golden Globe as Best Comedy.
This uproarious anthem to men behaving badly spoke loud and clear to successive generations who have woken bleary-eyed and struggled to piece together fragmented memories of the night before.
What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas in the lacklustre sequel, which transported the beleaguered members of the Wolfpack to Thailand, and now the unholy trinity of Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms go cold turkey in the imaginatively titled final chapter, The Hangover Part III.
Screenwriter Craig Mazin sips the dregs of his creative juices throughout this more mature yet dull cocktail of male bonding, profanity and outlandish set pieces, including a suicidal roof-top descent into a penthouse suite at Caesars Palace hotel on the Nevada strip.
Part III opens with Alan (Galifianakis) suffering a mental breakdown in the aftermath of his father’s death, which prompts best friends Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) to stage an intervention.
They intend to accompany Alan to the New Horizons medical facility, where he can seek professional help to overcome his grief.
En route, the pals are forced off the road by a thug called Marshall (John Goodman), who holds Doug hostage in exchange for flamboyant criminal Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) and stolen gold bullion worth 21 million dollars.
“You don’t give me Chow, I blow (Doug’s) brains out. You go to the cops, I blow his brains out!” threatens the crime boss.
With the clock ticking and screenwriter Mazin’s imagination running on empty, Alan, Phil and Stu head to Tijuana and then back to Vegas to capture Chow and save Doug from a shallow grave in the desert.
The Hangover Part III tastes as flat as a glass of leftover champagne.
Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms ease back into roles as bickering buddies in dire straits, while Jeong camps it up as the catalyst of their manifold misfortunes.
A tang of familiarity comes through in every tepid mouthful of Mazin’s script, briefly spiced up by a winning new character played by Melissa McCarthy, who milks more laughs in her five minutes of screen time than Phillips shoehorns into the remaining 95.
An additional scene during the end credits signs off with a final swig of gross-out humour that confirms the party ended for these characters a long time ago.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
Released: May 23 (UK & Ireland), 100 mins