There are a number of paths that a movie trilogy can take, each one all too familiar these days. Now that The Hangover franchise has released its third installment, let’s see if you can recognize the triad’s journey: The first movie is the best of the three, because it’s the only one that’s actually inspired; the second is the worst, being a mere halfhearted attempt to retread the same plot points as the first (minus the aforementioned inspiration); and the third movie ekes out a second-place spot, as the filmmakers learned enough to send the characters on a somewhat new adventure, but never recapture the original magic of the initial film (see also: the first three Die Hard movies, the Iron Man trilogy). The Hangover Part III has one huge thing going for it, and that’s the fact that director Todd Phillips collaborated with co-writer Craig Mazin on a script that does not rely on the wolf pack of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Doug (Justin Bartha) getting roofied so they can spend the next 48 hours piecing together what happened the night before. The way that the second movie shoehorned this premise into an already lifeless script was downright painful (Alan drugged the marshmallows? What?), and The Hangover Part III smartly avoids the blackout idea altogether, instead focusing on the flamboyant/insane Hong Kong crime kingpin Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), who has escaped from prison after stealing a ton of gold from another criminal named Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall wants his gold back, but he can’t seem to track down the elusive Chow. However, the former inmate’s mail indicates that he was pen pals with a furry man-child named Alan, making the wolf pack his best bet for luring Chow out of hiding. So Marshall kidnaps Doug (of course) as collateral, and threatens to shoot him in the head if the guys don’t return with the wild card Chow in their custody from the last place he was seen: Tijuana. While it wouldn’t be wise to get your hopes up that this movie is going to have you rolling in the aisles like the first one, you can’t deny that it’s a better comedy than The Hangover Part II. Not being tied to such a contrived premise frees the writers up to let the story take some funnier and more natural turns, and let the actors improvise more frequently to hilarious effect. If you loved the first Hangover, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. There’s no tiger hiding in the bathroom, but it’s still good for a few laughs.