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‘The Hangover Part III’

Within the first five minutes of “The Hangover Part III” a giraffe comes to a very bad end, and some roosters and dogs also get treated roughly in the film. Yet the most disturbing animal abuse you’ll find here is the continuous beating of a dead horse.

The first “Hangover” movie was hardly a work of genius, but it had three decent character actors — Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis — and a script that never took its eye off the ball: jokes. Director Todd Philips booted screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore after the first film, though, and decided to write the sequels himself with a bunch of hired hands.

The result? Philips doesn’t even give us a hangover this time; he seems fixated on bringing “closure” to the “character arcs” of the film’s three buddies and the ever-annoying Chow (Ken Jeong), and tying up all the loose plot ends of the earlier films.

Typical is a scene where Alan is reunited with the baby from the first film (who’s about 5 now) and has a strange heart-to-heart chat with no laughs whatsoever. Most of the time, in fact, Philips substitutes nods to the previous films — Vegas, “Black Doug,” Heather Graham, etc. — in place of humor. Worst of all is the sneak scene placed in the ending credits that is generally funny, and will strike you as where “Hangover III” should have started in the first place. (G.F.)