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The only surprising thing about "The Hangover Part III" is that it isn't as blatantly offensive as the first two films.

It is, however, more violent than the previous outings, as director Todd Phillips and his co-writer Craig Mazin replace the shocking stuff with a nasty gangster plot and other gory touches.

The first bit of violence is committed on a defenseless giraffe, decapitated when our cluelessly self-absorbed friend Alan (Zach Galifianakis) buys it and then drives it home under an overpass. The string of events that follows leads Alan's brother-in-law Doug (Justin Bartha) and his Wolf Pack buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms) to take part in an intervention and to take Alan to a mental-health facility in Arizona.

On the drive to Arizona, the four are run off the road by a crime boss, Maxwell (John Goodman). He is pursuing Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), the coked-out criminal from the first two films. Chow just escaped from a Bangkok prison — in an unfunny prologue that cribs "The Shawshank Redemption." Maxwell says Chow took $21 million in stolen gold from him, and that Alan has been exchanging letters with Chow. Maxwell holds Doug hostage and gives the others three days to find Chow or else.

Thanks to Alan's continued contact with Chow, the trail takes the three to Tijuana and then back to the series' ground zero, Las Vegas.

There are moments of slight humor scattered through "The Hangover Part III," most of them involving Galifianakis making something out of the lazy script — for example, when the gang meets an abrasive pawn-shop operator, played by Melissa McCarthy, with whom Alan makes a connection.

To get to those moments, though, one must endure Jeong's annoying one-note character, which barely was tolerable in the small doses delivered in the first two films. One also must witness Cooper smugly sleepwalking through the film, every gesture indicating how this is now beneath the dignity of an Oscar nominee. And then there's the body count, which includes several mobsters, a few chickens, two dogs, that poor giraffe and one character actor who deserves better.

These problems could be overlooked if "The Hangover Part III" were actually funny, which it's not — unless you adopt the philosophy of the movie's most psychopathic character, Mr. Chow, that "it's funny" when "bad things happen and people get hurt." If you do feel that way, I can recommend this lovely facility in Arizona.

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'The Hangover Part III"

The Wolf Pack returns, ending the trilogy with less offensiveness, more violence and very few laughs.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens Thursday, May 23.

Rating • R for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity.

Running time • 104 minutes.

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