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No cure for this Hangover

The Hangover Part III Comedy. Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, John Goodman, Mike Epps, Heather Graham, Melissa McCarthy. Directed by Todd Phillips. Cert 15A

When The Hangover was released in 2009 it proved an unlikely across-the-board success. Critics were lavish in their praise for the film in which three hapless eejits wake up in a trashed Las Vegas hotel room, complete with a tiger and a crying baby, and have to try to piece together just how they got there and find the fourth member of their party, who's about to be married the following day.

It was irreverent, genuinely funny and the fact few of the main cast were familiar to many viewers only added to its appeal.

Audiences were in full agreement with the scribes, too, pushing the film towards a $500m box-office and, alas, making a sequel inevitable. Part II was essentially the very same plot as its predecessor, only with a rude awakening in Bangkok instead of Vegas, but there was a crucial and fatal change in tone.

Whereas in the first film, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) were simply gobshites who lost the run of themselves having been spiked, this time out they were an obnoxious bunch of assholes and the film was deeply unpleasant on several levels.

HEADCASE

Naturally, it made $200m more than the first one, so now we have what we're assured is the final part of the trilogy. Director Todd Phillips has taken on co-writing duties here, the original team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore having gone on to write and direct the appalling 21 & Over and he gets things spectacularly wrong. The film certainly isn't as utterly terrible as Part II, but the real problem is that it doesn't even feel like it belongs in the same series.

Certainly the characters are all here, but with the focus now on Alan, who's off his meds and behaving like the psychotic headcase we suspected he may have been all along.

Following the death of his father and more obnoxious behaviour, his three friends take part in an intervention and he agrees to attend a clinic in Arizona. On the way there, however, the quartet are run off a desert road by men wearing masks, given a long lecture by Marshall (John Goodman), a gangster who explains how the incidents from the first film led him to lose $24m in gold bullion, courtesy of the crazed Mr Chow (Ken Jeong), whereupon he kidnaps Doug and threatens to kill him unless the gang can deliver Chow.

A Hangover movie without a hangover? That's exactly what we have here. There are times watching this when I'm not even sure it qualifies as a comedy, coming across more like a late-Eighties caper movie with mis-timed and totally unfunny gags littering the script.

On pushing the by now virtually unwatchable Alan and Chow, of whom a little goes a long way, to centre stage, the whole group dynamic is unbalanced and the enterprise feels like a later Lethal Weapon movie where all the good ideas are gone so they let Joe Pesci's character off the leash more and more.

Equally, I'm not sure how having people shot dead in cold blood fits in with the ethos established by the first film and anyone who's not completely creeped out by a scene involving Alan and the young son of Heather Graham's Jade, making a cameo reprise of her role from the original, should think seriously about their role in a normal society.

Cooper looks like he'd rather be anywhere else – appearing in a proper film, say – and when his Phil drones "What the f*** are we watching here?" at some cliched stunt or other, you get the feeling that he really means it. I know exactly how he felt. HHIII

EPIC Animation. Featuring the voices of Beyonce, Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler. Directed by Chris Wedge. Cert General

The producers of Rio and the rapidly thawing Ice Age series are likely to have another huge hit on their hands with this eco-fable which, while hardly stretching the boundaries of storytelling, ticks all the right boxes and assembles its all-too-familiar elements in a sensible and satisfying fashion.

The story centres on Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), a spiky teenager now living with her father (Jason Sudeikis), an eccentric scientist who's convinced that there are tiny creatures living in the forest next to their home and a constant embarrassment to his daughter. When MK, as she wishes to be known, finds herself reduced to insect-size in the forest of Moonhaven, she becomes involved in a desperate battle to save the elements from the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his army of Boggans. Queen Tara (Beyonce) and her loyal soldiers the Leafmen (whose number include characters voiced by Colin Farrell and Josh Hutcherson) mount a spirited defence of their homeland in a story which, were you to boil it down to its essence, is really Avatar for kiddies, as if James Cameron's epic wasn't for kiddies in the first place.

The animation is solid, with plenty of swooping flights through foliage, there's the required comic relief in the form of snail 'n' slug double act Grub and Mub (Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari) and, overall, Epic is a sturdy diversion which should keep both children and adults entertained through early summer.

3 STARS

everybody has a plan Drama. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Daniel Fanego, Soledad Villamil, Javier Godino, Sofia Gala. Directed by Ana Piterbarg. Cert IFI

Viggo Mortensen's character in this Argentina-based drama does indeed have a plan, it's just that it's not a very good one.

He plays Agustin, a Buenos Aires paediatrician who's unhappy with his life and becoming estranged from his partner Claudia (Soledad Villamil, who was quite wonderful in The Secret in Their Eyes) when he sees an opportunity to change things.

His twin brother Pedro arrives from the remote Tigre delta where they both grew up, dying of cancer and relating some – but not all – of what he's been up to in recent years to Agustin. When Pedro expires, Agustin fakes an identity swap and heads down the river to take his brother's place.

Alas, Pedro wasn't just keeping bees as Agustin thought but was involved with local criminal Adrian (Daniel Fanego), a man they both knew in childhood, with kidnapping, murder and revenge soon coming into the picture.

Mortensen is excellent as ever, the landscape looks suitably wild and dangerous and the supporting cast are all fine, but debut director Piterbarg never really pulls all the potential dramatic strands together, with the result that by the halfway mark the story drifts by as unobtrusively as the Tigre itself.

2 STARS


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